Community health talks hit snag over workplace and safety

February 3, 2006

For PDF version of this alert click here

Employers need to step up the pace, says BCGEU

Progress achieved earlier in the week in negotiations for a new contract for 13,000 community health workers was dashed when talks hit a snag Feb. 2 over the important issue of health and safety.

As a way to highlight bargaining proposals to improve health and safety protections for front-line care givers, the union bargaining association tabled a comprehensive report prepared by the joint Occupational Health and Safety Agency for Health Care. The OSHA study highlighted the dangers faced by workers and backstopped a number of solutions advanced by the unions to make work sites safer, including risk assessments performed at clients' homes.

"While they didn't reject our solutions out of hand, employer negotiators were unnecessarily dismissive of the safety risks faced by community health workers," says BCGEU president George Heyman.

"It's just not acceptable," says Heyman. "And because the week ended acrimoniously, we lost the momentum that we'd generated earlier in the week.

"With the clock ticking on the government's March 31 target for negotiated settlements for workers to be eligible for bonuses, employers are definitely going to have to pick up the pace when talks resume."

Meanwhile, in other bargaining news for the week, union proposals to reclassify a number of jobs were tabled and will be discussed further at a special sub committee level. And the two sides agreed that municipal pension plan language will now be formally enshrined in the contract. The first-ever pension plan for community care givers kicks in starting April 1.

Talks will resume Feb. 7, with hours of work - a priority issue for workers - expected to dominate discussions. Other key union priorities include wages, job security, and making up for ground lost because of government rollbacks and cuts.

BCGEU's negotiating committee is hosting a weekly Thursday conference call with all Component 4 local chairs to report in detail on bargaining progress. Contact your local leaders for an update.