Strike vote leads to mediation for Sunridge

Employees at Sunridge Place are backing their push for a first contract with a strike vote.

They voted overwhelmingly – 97 per cent in favour – on May 26 to do so after mediated talks between their Hospital Employees Union bargaining committee and their employer, CareCorp, failed to produce an agreement.

The strike vote was called by HEU’s bargaining committee, according to spokesperson Bob Wilson.

"During the four days of mediation held in May at the Labour Relations Board, it became clear that CareCorp has no intention of addressing members’ concerns over wages, benefits, retention, and workload," he said.

"That’s why it was so great to see members get behind their demands by supporting their bargaining committee’s call for a strike mandate."

In response, CareCorp immediately applied for a special process under the Labour Code called Section 55 First Collective Agreement mediation.

That set June 2, 9 and 10 as tentative dates for the parties to sit down with mediator, Christina Bains.

Sunridge has been the site of a series of labour wrangles between HEU and the facility’s various owners and contractors.

The employer there contracted out everyone but the registered nurses in June of last year.

Many former employees were hired back as non-union workers by the new contractor, CareCorp. They joined the union in August 2014 and therefore they are now looking at a first collective agreement.

"Because it is a first collective agreement, the employer or the union has a right to apply for Section 55," Wilson said.

"The employer in this case did apply on May 27. And then we did meet with a mediator, Christina Bains on June 2."

Wilson said he didn’t know if talks would continue next week because the two sides seemed quite far apart.

"None of this can be confirmed until the mediator writes a report. That report can recommend three things: terms of settlement, a binding process of mediation or arbitration or it can recommend that the parties exercise their right to strike or lock out," he said.

Wilson said he expected to see a recommendation for continued mediation or arbitration talks.

Wages and benefits are still the sticking point.

"We have been negotiating with them since September of last year and we have settled all the language and rights kinds of issues. Money is the final issue. We expect the mediator’s report next week," Wilson said.

Sunridge is not the only HEU group electing to take strike action against CareCorp if needed. The New Horizons facility in Campbell River will also be affected, he said.