Health care workers will vote on an agreement, struck late Wednesday between their unions and the Northern Health Authority, that exchanges contract concessions for protections against contracting out.
If ratified during votes scheduled over the next two weeks, 2,800 front-line health care workers will take wage cuts, work longer hours and give up vacation time and statutory holiday pay during the final six months of their current collective agreement to help offset financial pressures faced by the NHA.
In return, the NHA Board has shelved its plans to contract out health services.
“It’s a ‘made in the North’ solution to Victoria’s under-funding of health care in our communities,” says Hospital Employees’ Union northern director Kathy Jessome. “This agreement would see health care workers make significant sacrifices to preserve good jobs and critical services in communities battered by the policies of the Campbell Liberals.”
The agreement contains a temporary six-month wage reduction of $3.25 an hour for staff providing laundry, housekeeping, security, dietary and maintenance services. This cut will be partially restored by a rise of $2.25 on April 1, 2004. Wages for other classifications will be reduced by $1 an hour and most of that cut - 65 cents - will be restored April 1, 2004. The wage cuts are effective immediately.
Workers also give up last spring’s cost of living adjustment - effective immediately - and their most recent pay equity adjustments beginning March 1, 2004. There will also be an extension of the work week by one and a half hours with no increase in pay, a four day reduction in the vacation period and an elimination of premium pay for working certain statutory holidays.
The concessions are cancelled across the north if the NHA serves notice of its intention to contract out services at any facility or agency covered by the contract.
The agreement covers 37 hospitals, diagnostic treatment centres, residential care homes, health centres and other agencies that are directly run by the NHA throughout the North. Workers at two long-term care facilities that are being closed will continue to receive their current wages and benefits.
In addition to 2,500 HEU members, the agreement covers 300 members of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, the B.C. Nurses’ Union and the International Union of Operating Engineers covered by the 2001-2004 Facilities Subsector Collective Agreement.