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The Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) and facilities subsector partner unions - the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union and International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) - met with deputy minister of labour Lee Doney on Saturday, opening discussions with government and health employers to find alternatives to contracting out and privatization.

HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt says that talks will continue this week.

“Government is considering the nature of discussions and what the unions have to say,” says Allnutt. “The talks are tough but everyone is well aware that HEU members want all options explored in order to avert a crisis in our health care system.”

On March 31, health unions put forward a good faith offer to health employers to hold off on 4.4 per cent in wage and pay equity increases due April 1 in return for a freeze on all contracting out and privatization initiatives pending the outcome of talks.

“It’s critical that serious discussions continue to develop,” says Allnutt. “Solutions are urgently needed so that hospitals and long-term care facilities don’t lose the skills, experience and dedication of up to 20,000 health workers over the next three years.”

Allnutt adds that the terms of any settlement would go to a ratification vote of union members.