There’s rarely any love lost between union and employer. So when the two sides decide to work together – and actually manage to succeed – it’s big news.
It certainly reduced the cynicism and lack of trust the Health Employees’ Union has felt towards the Northern Health Authority ever since the provincial government gave it the legal tools, with Bill 29, to break union contracts without facing repercussions.
The two sides reached an agreement last week that will avoid the contracting out of over 400 unionized health care support jobs.
“It gives us a great deal of hope and it shows us the NHA has lived up to their word and that it is more than an act, that they are willing to listen to good ideas,” said HEU rep Kathy Jessome.
The health authority was also applauding the union for its cooperative approach to finding savings in the provision of laundry, housekeeping and food services in public health care facilities throughout the region.
“These steps will provide savings that will assist in the continued provision of direct services to patients, clients and residents across the north,” said CEO Malcolm Maxwell.
The health authority has agreed to cancel the request for proposals process it had underway for private contractors to provide the service.
The union, meanwhile, has agreed to work to streamline processes and organizational structures. Areas of cooperation include establishing centralized “hubs” for certain support services, increasing bulk-buying and finding ways to reduce duplication and make other small savings.
The initiatives are projected to save the health authority up to $1 million annually.
The agreement will also result in the elimination of approximately 25 of 392 full-time equivalent positions representing over 400 workers. Most of the job cuts will occur through early retirement and attrition, said Jessome.
“It’s not a bad deal at all for the 400-odd workers who would have lost their jobs had they gone through with the contracting out.”
The deal includes no cuts to the current collective agreement, she said, including no reduction in wages.
In addition, workers at eight locations throughout the authority who had reached local area agreements last fall that did feature wage and benefit concessions will be returned to their full wage and benefit levels a month earlier than the March 31 end of those agreements.
“We believe these steps pertaining to the local area agreements will attempt to recognize the significant contributions our staff made in helping deal with our cost pressures,” said Al Martin, NHA vice-president of operational support services.
Those locals include Dunrovin Lodge in Quesnel, Terraceview Lodge in Terrace, Lakes District Hospital and The Pines in Burns Lake, Mackenzie Hospital, Omineca Lodge and St. John Hospital in Vanderhood and McBride Hospital.
No Prince George locals were involved.