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Health Science Professionals Bargaining Update: Frequently-Asked Questions on Bargaining and Job Action - BC General Employees' Union (BCGEU)

The HSPBA bargaining committee is engaged in focussed discussions with the employer through most of June. Subgroups of the committee are leading the discussions and negotiating matters related to managing union leave disputes and expedited arbitration procedures.

Negotiations continue, and we are making progress, but more slowly than we had hoped for at the outset. To date we have had high level discussions on wages and monetary proposals, including issues related to leaves, classifications, and recruitment/retention. However, we have not received a response from the employer on our wage proposals.

The committee continues to work hard to achieve the goals set by health science professionals at the Health bargaining conference: agreements on action for recruitment, retention, respect, recognition of the responsibility held by health science professional members of the health care team, and supporting resilience in our physical and mental wellbeing.

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we're hearing.

Our current contract expired in March. What happens now?

While the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) collective agreement expired March 31, 2022, the terms of these agreements remain in force until new contracts are negotiated and voted on by all union members. That means your pay and benefits remain unchanged for the time being.

Who is negotiating my new contract?

The Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) collective agreement, is being negotiated by a bargaining committee comprised of professional negotiators employed by our unions, subject experts on specialized labour relations matters, and HSP members elected by their peers to ensure member concerns are addressed at the bargaining table and in the new agreement.

When might Health Science Professionals go on strike? Are we taking a strike vote?

We are still actively bargaining and have not reached impasse so Health Science Professional members are not taking a strike vote at this time. 

Bargaining began in March 2022, and is still in the early stages. Talks with the employers will likely continue for the next few months. If no progress is made by the fall, and bargaining is at a stalemate, the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association may consider taking a strike vote then.

What if another union goes on strike in the next few weeks?

If you see a picket line at your workplace, do not cross it. If another union or bargaining unit plans to go on strike, they will communicate through the BC Federation of Labour with other unions who may have members affected by the strike picket line. 

What would a strike or job action look like?

We take job action when withdrawing our services is the only power left to us to achieve our bargaining demands. Before taking any sort of job action, we must take a strike vote and we would not take a strike vote unless we had reached impasse in bargaining. 

Job action can take many forms. It could start with the refusal to perform specific duties and escalate to an all-out withdrawal of everything but essential services. A common form of job action is "work to rule". This is where you refuse to do any duties that are not specifically part of your job description, like certain paperwork, administrative duties, or portering. A ban on overtime is a similar form of job action. These types of job action place pressure on the employer while keeping members at work. Rotating job action is where members withdraw their services for a short period of time, usually one day. An example of rotating job action is to withdraw services in one department for one day, and then have the members return to work the next day while another department withdraws their services. This type of action minimizes financial loss to members while putting pressure on the employer.

Maintaining care for patients and clients remains a top priority, and essential levels of service, which are negotiated with the employer, must, by law, be maintained.

What are essential services? How will I know if I'm considered essential?

Essential service levels are currently being negotiated between the union and the employer. No job action can be taken until such time as the final levels are agreed to by the BC Labour Board.

In the event of job action, unions will take over responsibility for scheduling the work needed to achieve essential services, and in order to be eligible for these essential service shifts, members must perform picket duty. This can take a number of forms as there are a lot of jobs that need to be done during job action. We will work with the steward and job action team at your workplace to ensure that members know what to do and that essential service shifts are distributed equitably.

During the time that members attend work for essential service shifts, they are paid their regular salary by the employer. When members are performing their picket duty jobs, they are paid by their union.

Watch your email for more updates

We will continue to keep you informed as the bargaining process progresses. Please check your email frequently for updates.

In solidarity,

Your Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association