A large chunk of B.C.’s health care workers voted 96 per cent in favour of strike action last week — nearly 1,000 workers are in the Comox Valley.
The Facilities Bargaining Association (FBA), is made up of 11 unions including the lead union, the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU), which accounts for about 70 per cent of workers represented by the FBA.
Comox Valley HEU representative Sandra Ford notes the current contract — which covers 46,000 health care workers in B.C. — expired in March and negotiations have been going on since February, with no movement.
Members voted over the past couple of weeks by ballot before the strong strike vote was announced Friday. Ford noted almost 1,000 of these workers are in the Comox Valley and would have voted in favour of the strike mandate.
According to Ford, the next step is to take the strike mandate back to the bargaining table to try to get some movement from the health employer and government.
However, if there is no movement, job action could be on the horizon.
“What that might look like, we don’t know at this point of course, it’s still quite early, but we are certainly prepared to go that route if we need to,” she says. “When considering any kind of job action we’ll certainly be looking at the least impact to patients and the public and of course our members and applying maximum pressure on the employer to reach an agreement.
“We don’t want to put anybody in jeopardy of course and that’s always our first consideration.”
According to a news release from the FBA, the bargaining unit includes: care aides, LPNs, ambulance paramedics, health records staff, laboratory and other diagnostic specialists, sterile supply technicians, emergency dispatch personnel, trades and maintenance workers, activity aides and rehab assistants, IT specialists, pharmacy technicians, admitting and booking clerks, administrative staff, cleaning and dietary staff, and many others.
She adds members have been clear, “They don’t want their benefits touched” and they want a “modest” wage increase allowing for cost of living increases.
She points out that after about nine months with no movement in negotiations, the bargaining committee decided it was time to see how the members felt.
“And that’s really where the bargaining committee was at, was they were not satisfied with what was happening at the bargaining table, and felt that it was time to go to the members, and report to the members and get their take on it, so the message was loud and clear,” says Ford.
She hasn’t heard of any established bargaining dates at this point, but she expects dates will be announced soon.