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The Health Employers Association of B.C. want an early start to negotiations for a new province-wide facilities subsector collective agreement.

In a letter sent to HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt, the HEABC says it intends to serve notice in December to commence bargaining in early January 2004 with the intention of reaching a new contract before the current one expires on March 31, 2004.

Under B.C. labour legislation, notice to bargain can be served by either side up to four months in advance of agreement's expiry date.

Bargaining must begin within 10 days of this notice.

“Health employers are not usually this eager to get to the bargaining table,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “It raises the question of whether the timing is motivated by the B.C. Liberals' election timetable as much as any other consideration.

“We'll meet our legal obligations under the labour code,” added Allnutt. “But we'll also ensure that delegates to next February's wage policy conference determine the direction of bargaining.”

HEU's 16th Wage Policy Conference convenes on February 9, 2004.