Cowichan health workers seek strike mandate to restart stalled contract talks

Cowichan's health-care workers and their union hope a strike mandate will jump start stalled contract talks with their provincial employers.
— image credit: Andrew Leong file

Cowichan's unionized health-care workers and their B.C. workmates seek a strike mandate to reach a deal with health employers, the Health Employees Union said Friday.

The 11-union Facilities Bargaining Association says talks — involving Cowichan District Hospital and Cairnsmore lodge staffers — have stalled on various issues.

Those include employers' refusal to extend employment security provisions, a move that would open health care to further privatization and put jobs risk, HEU's Mike Old's email says.

"Health employers' demands for more contracting out will cause uncertainty and instability in our hospitals, care facilities, and in the community," adds Bonnie Pearson, the FBA's chief negotiator.

The current contract provision protecting services from contracting out expires March 30.

It was renegotiated into the 2012 agreement after being removed by legislation 10 years earlier, notes Old.

The Supreme Court of Canada later ruled that law unconstitutional.

Pearson says health employers refuse to improve health and safety in the province's most dangerous workplaces. And they've rejected proposals to improve health-service delivery by expanding roles for B.C.'s community paramedics, Old writes.

Talks span jobs in hospitals, care facilities, emergency health services, logistics and supply warehouses, and other shared services.

The collective agreement expires March 31.

The current round of bargaining began Jan. 14.

Talks cover care aides, ambulance paramedics, health-records staff, lab and diagnostic specialists, sterile-supply techs, emergency dispatchers, nursing-unit clerks, trades and maintenance workers, activity aides and rehab assistants, IT specialists, pharmacy techs, admitting and booking clerks, administrative staff, cleaning and dietary staff, and others.

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