Health workers OK strike mandate

Health care workers at Cowichan District Hospital, Cowichan Lodge, Cairnsmore Extended Care, and Chemainus Health Care Centre are among those who have handed an overwhelming 96 per cent strike mandate to the team trying to negotiate a new contract.

According to Facilities Bargaining Association spokesperson Bonnie Pearson there is no strike on the horizon yet, however.

"We do see this as a very clear mandate from our membership. We hope that it motivates the employer to come back to the bargaining table. Our objective has always been fair and respectful bargaining. We expect to hear from health care employers and will be in touch with them to find a way back to the bargaining table to reach a negotiated settlement," she said.

The FBA has been taking the pulse of its members, she said.

"We suspended talks about a month ago to go and talk to our members to see if we were on the right track or not. I think they’ve pretty clearly told us that we are. This should give us the momentum to find a solution at the bargaining table," Pearson added.

According to the employees’ group, key issues at the bargaining table are employment security, protection of benefits and improved health and safety provisions.

The FBA is also seeking changes to the ambulance service that would improve and enhance paramedics’ abilities to provide patient care.

Pearson said she is hopeful that the strong strike mandate will refocus health employers on reassuring workers that their jobs will be protected as the threat of contracting out looms large.

The wide range of occupations in the 47,000-strong province-wide bargaining unit includes care aides, ambulance paramedics, health records staff, lab and other 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 many others.

The current collective agreement with the Health Employers Association of B.C. expired on March 31. The current round of bargaining began on Jan. 14 and broke off in late March.