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On Sunday night May 2, 2004 the Hospital Employees Union signed an agreement with the provincial government to return to work from a strike that lasted 8 days. The HEU had been on strike for 4 days when the government imposed Bill 37 back to work legislation. The union refused to return to work and remained on protest lines in defiance of Bill 37 for 4 more days, at which time the parties entered into negotiations.

The demands put on the table by the employers association amounted to cuts in compensation to the bargaining unit of $900 million. These demands included the entire pay equity package and huge portions of the HEUs collective agreement language bargained over the past 4 decades. Both the employer and the government refused to consider the issue of job security through an imposed cap on lay-offs in the health care system to ensure HEU members can retain their jobs.

The HEU made it clear that its first priority was the job security of its members. With the privatization of 7,000 HEU jobs to date, and thousands more on the chopping block the contracting out of health care services had to stop. The privatization agenda of the government would put patient care at risk.

There was no real bargaining at the table as HEABC waited for the union to react and the government to legislate. The strategy of HEABC and government was to repeat the Bill 29 experience and legislate an end to the dispute. Bill 37 is an Act that cuts the wages of employees but has no guarantees for job security what so ever. It is wage cuts with the continued imposition of Bill 29 to the entire bargaining unit.

The following is a brief summary of the Memorandum of Agreement between the Government of British Columbia, HEABC, the BC Federation of Labour, and the Facilities Bargaining Association. Please find enclosed a copy of the agreement.

  1. The government agrees that the retroactive wage cuts of 11% as outlined in Bill 37 will no longer be retroactive.
  2. The government agrees there will be no more than 400 FTEs laid-off in the first year of the agreement and 200 FTEs laid-off in the second year of the agreement as a result of the contracting out of services.
  3. The government agrees to provide $25 million towards severance payments to employees currently with lay-off notices or those that may receive lay-off notices between May 1, 2004 and March 31, 2006.
  4. The employer agrees that no employee, union, or union officer shall be subject to any discipline or fine (sanction) as a result of actions taking during the strike or political protest.
  5. The MOA is not a part of the collective agreement. It is agreed than any disputes that are not resolved will be submitted to arbitrator Vince Ready under the Commercial Arbitration Act.