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Cowichan's health-care workers reach five-year deal with Victoria

Health-care workers at Cowichan District Hospital and across B.C. have inked a five-year contract with the province, giving employees a general 5.5% wage hike, and more. - Andrew Leong file
Health-care workers at Cowichan District Hospital and across B.C. have inked a five-year contract with the province, giving employees a general 5.5% wage hike, and more.
— image credit: Andrew Leong file

Cowichan’s unionized ambulance paramedics, care aides, pharmacy technicians and many other health-care employees helped ratify Tuesday’s five-year deal with the province.

Members of an 11-union coalition, ratified their new collective agreement by a vote of 64.6%.

“The agreement between the 11-union Facilities Bargaining Association and government’s bargaining agent —  the Health Employers Association of B.C. — covers 47,000 workers in hospitals, care homes, emergency health services, logistics and supply warehouses, and other settings,” a release by the Hospital Employees Union Mike Old says.

“It includes 5.5% in general wage increases, a cap on contracting out of 500 full-time equivalent positions over the life of the agreement, a transition to joint administration of benefits, and continued funding of a union-managed education and skills upgrading program.”

The contract runs from April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2019.

The FBA also includes health-records staff, lab and other diagnostic specialists, sterile-supply techs, renal technicians, emergency dispatchers, nursing-unit clerks, trades and maintenance workers, activity aides and rehab assistants, IT specialists, admitting and booking clerks, administrative staff, cleaning and dietary staff, and others.

In a separate set of provisions relating to ambulance paramedics and dispatchers, negotiated changes maintain distinct language covering ambulance services while addressing long-standing issues within the collective agreement, Old notes.

The deal was reached after union members delivered a 96% strike mandate to their negotiating team in May.

HEU brass explained the contract gives “some stability and certainty in a sector that’s been racked by privatization and restructuring.” The HEU represents about 85% of health-care workers covered by the talks.

A further 14% are represented by CUPE Local 873, the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 882/882H.

About 1% per cent of workers in the FBA are represented by the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers Local 5.

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