Tentative agreement reached for health science professionals

After almost a year of bargaining for a new contract, the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) has reached a tentative agreement for nearly 17,000 health science professionals working in hospitals and communities across British Columbia.

“Despite the difficult bargaining environment and restrictive government mandate, we were able to secure a fair and reasonable agreement for our BCGEU members in health sciences,” said BCGEU President Darryl Walker. “This has been a challenging round of negotiations, but the bargaining committee was able to gain significant improvements for our members. This tentative agreement follows the same pattern set in the other public health sectors, and we are recommending our members to vote yes.” 
The tentative agreement includes wage increases totaling 3 per cent, and makes permanent a market adjustment of between 9 and 14% over and above the basic wage rates for pharmacists. It also achieves fairness for all members of the modern health care team by finally recognizing the work and commitment of the team of health science professionals who are there – day or night – to perform the life-saving services that keep British Columbians alive in medical emergencies. The provisions that protect the health and safety of health science professionals in short supply who often work on call, and fairly compensate those who work extraordinary shifts to deliver critical services, are a long-fought for recognition of contribution of these members of the modern health care team.
The BCGEU is recommending ratification of this two-year tentative agreement.
The agreement brings a return to a 37.5 hour work week for health science professionals, who have for the past several years worked a 36-hour week introduced more than 15 years ago as a cost-saving measure.
The tentative agreement was achieved after two weeks of intensive discussions facilitated by mediator Vince Ready, and as HSA was surveying its members about a provocative “last offer” the government tabled in December. After that offer was tabled, HSPBA stepped away from bargaining to consult members about next steps.  
Almost 4,000 HSA members completed a survey in the past two weeks, and resoundingly rejected the government’s December proposals calling for many concessions, including unprecedented reductions in benefits, and a wholesale gutting of the classification system which could have resulted in wage roll-backs.
The tentative agreement reached today includes a commitment to a Pharmacare tie-in which is comparable to pharmaceutical coverage offered by BC Pharmacare, and a joint process to realize savings in extended benefit coverage. In exchange, union members will benefit from the return of a pay-direct card instead of the current system of reimbursement of payment for prescribed drugs. 
The tentative agreement covers more than 17,000 health science professionals who deliver health care services in BC hospitals and communities.
A majority of health science professionals are represented by the Health Sciences Association of BC. Other unions in the Association are the BC Government and Service Employees Union, Professional Employees Association, Canadian Union of Public Employees and Hospital Employees’ Union.
The HSPBA bargaining committee unanimously voted to recommend acceptance of the tentative agreement, which expires March 31, 2014. Each of the member unions will consider the recommendation of thebargaining committee as they prepare to take the agreement to a vote by members covered by the contract.