Shift to CBA wage grid offers boost for health workers on front line of opioid, housing crises

An agreement reached between the PHS Community Services Society, the Health Employers Association of BC, and CUPE 1004 will this week see approximately 600 CUPE health services and support workers at PHS shift from their Local Collective Agreement to an existing contract in the community health sector—a move that, with wage protection or improvements in every classification, should help restore dignity and respect for frontline staff who provide critical services for vulnerable populations.

Effective October 1, these workers’ Collective Agreement rights will fall under the Community Subsector Association of Bargaining Agents (CBA) contract, which runs from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2022. All wage adjustments and general increases of the CBA Collective Agreement, retroactive to April 2019, will thus take effect for PHS CUPE 1004 members.

PHS runs 19 supportive housing and shelter buildings and also operates several safe drug consumption sites in Vancouver and Victoria. These CUPE members— mental health, outreach and home support workers, medical and dental assistants, and food service workers—work on the frontline of the opioid, the housing, and the homelessness crises. The daily challenges of their work have been further complicated by COVID-19.

“This melding of our contract to the CBA agreement is a major development for our Local. It represents significant gains for our members at the PHS,” said CUPE 1004 President Andrew Ledger.

“It really couldn’t come at a better time, given the challenges so many of our members have been facing during the pandemic. Bringing these members into the CBA agreement shows respect for their vital contributions to frontline health care services.”

In addition to the annual 2 per-cent-general wage increases for members in the community health sector, the CBA wage grid was recently adjusted to reflect low wage redress in moving the community subsector to parity with facilities. The classifications, wage rates and increment steps were determined through negotiation and the final recommendations of Mediators Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers.

The new MOA does not apply to PHS workers who are in CUPE 1936 or to CUPE 1004 nurse and paramedical professionals. The CUPE 1936 and 1004 collective agreements continue to apply to those employees, whose transition remains in process between the parties and the Mediators.

By joining the community health sector, PHS CUPE 1004 members will also fall under the representative umbrella of the CUPE Health Care Presidents Council (HCPC), which works to build a coordinated approach in addressing common causes for all CUPE community health workers. Through the HCPC, members benefit from coordinated bargaining, conferences for setting contract priorities, and sector-specific educational and member support opportunities.