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Health care workers ink deal

Agreement part of government long-term plans

British Columbia’s front-line health care professionals have agreed to a long-term contract under the province’s economic stability mandate.

Membership represented by the Health Sciences Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) accepted the five-year deal with a 76 per cent vote, December 23. The new agreement starts April 1, 2014. The current agreement between the HSPBA and the Health Employers Association of BC expires at the end of March.

HSPBA represents more than 16,000 front-line health workers in more than 100 specialized disciplines that provide diagnostic, clinical and rehabilitation services and range from medical laboratory technologists to physiotherapists to social workers. It is led by the Health Sciences Association (HSA) and covers several unions including BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Professional Employees Association and Hospital Employees’ Union.

“This agreement meets our shared objectives for stability in the health care system, and recognizes the importance of a commitment to recruitment and retention,” said Val Avery, HSA president, in a press release.

The deal gives workers a 5.5 per cent wage increase over the term of the contract, with potential for additional increases if the BC economy exceeds the annual forecasts set by the Economic Forecast Council (BC).

“Reaching a longer-term agreement provides stability for employees, employers and the British Columbians who depend on the important services this sector delivers,” said finance minister Michael de Jong in a media release. “The agreement also protects taxpayers by ensuring that any additional wage increases will be tied to real growth in the economy.”

According the ministry of finance the government’s economic stability mandate provides public-sector employers the ability to negotiate longer-term agreements and offers employees an opportunity to participate in the province’s economic growth.

“This agreement is unique to the needs of the employers and employees, and I expect we will see that pattern continue with subsequent agreements,” said de Jong. “It is the product of give-and-take at the bargaining table, but it reflects the common desire to support and improve the delivery of quality services at an affordable and manageable cost to taxpayers within the government’s balanced budget.”