The province’s nurses will not get any pay raises or additional benefits under a new collective agreement, but they won’t lose anything either, after their union signed a framework agreement with health employers.
The agreement means no conflicts or job action, said B.C. Nurses’ Union president Debra McPherson.
“It guarantees the public that the health care system will not suffer disruptions from nurses; bargaining this summer,” she said.
The BNCU and the Health Employers Association of British Columbia (HEABC) signed the agreement Wednesday, which leaves wages and benefits at the status quo and allows the union to bargain over work conditions.
The agreement stipulates no rollbacks in wages, benefits, or time off provisions, and no increase in total compensation, and sets a time frame for bargaining to continue this summer.
“High-level” policy discussions will be held in June among the union, the HEABC, and Ministry of Health Services officials to address nurses’ concerns about work environment, including the number of full-time nursing positions, the shift scheduling system, phased retirement, hours of work, and full-time employment for new nursing graduates.
The BCNU want more full-time nurses working, rather than nurses working casual shifts, up to 51 per cent of the workforce by April 2006.
The union also wants to reduce overtime, and allow nurses 60 years old and over to be allowed to work part-time hours while keeping their pension contributions and service accumulation.
BCNU regional northeast regional chair Pollyanne Moorman said in April overtime was hurting patient care.
“”The Prince George Regional Hospital is surviving on overtime and casual work,” she said. “Prince George nurses think 16-hour days are normal. How are they going to be able to meet the needs of patients after a 16-hour day? The nurses feel they’re compromising both patient care and their own health due to exhaustion.”
Following the June discussions, the union and the HEABC will shortlist issues to be discussed in July. If the two sides agree to solutions, they will form part of a new collective agreement through March 2006.
If not, the current contract will run until then. Nurses will vote on any or all the issues in late September.
“Solving these problems would improve health care for patients and bring better working conditions for nurses,” McPherson said.