Members of 11 unions representing health care workers last week voted 96 per cent in favour of strike action.
Negotiations for a new collective agreement covering 47,000 employees will resume Thursday, with the assistance of mediator Vince Ready.
A collective agreement with the Health Employers Association of B.C. expired March 31. Bargaining began in January and broke off late-March. At issue is employment security, protection of benefits, and improved health and safety provisions.
The Hospital Employees’ Union represents about 85 per cent of the workers. Locally, it represents nearly 1,000 employees, about 600 at St. Joseph’s Hospital. About 80 work at Cumberland Regional Hospital Laundry, 120 at Cumberland Health Centre and 140 at Glacier View Lodge.
“We will negotiate a wage increase,” said Mike Old, communications director at HEU. “Our primary objectives are securing some kind of employment security agreement, protecting the value of our benefits plan, and making some improvements in terms of health and safety. And then there are some complex issues around changes to the ambulance service that we’re dealing with at the bargaining table as well.”
The range of occupations in the bargaining unit includes care aides, health records staff and pharmacy techs.
“The next biggest group of workers, after us, is probably the ambulance paramedics,” Old said.
Besides the HEU, about 14 per cent of health care workers are represented by CUPE Local 873, the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 882/882H.
Another seven unions represent less than one per cent of workers in the Facilities Bargaining Association. They are represented at the bargaining table by the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers Local 5.