B.C. health workers set to strike

Workers at 11 unions aim to protect benefits

Health-care workers in British Columbia have voted in favour of strike action.

The workers, represented by 11 unions under the Facilities Bargaining Association (FBA), have voted 96 per cent in favour of striking after two weeks of voting. They include licensed practical nurses, pharmacy technicians, ambulance paramedics and cleaners at hospitals, long-term care homes and emergency health services.

Bonnie Pearson, a spokeswoman for the FBA, says the vote sends a strong message to health employers and government.

“It’s clear that government and public sector employers can settle agreements in some sectors within government’s overall negotiating mandate,” she said in a press release. “I’ll be urging health employers to return to the table with a more flexible approach to our talks.”

Pearson, who is also the secretary-business manager for the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU), says the government is trying to reduce benefits to fund a modest pay hike, but the association won’t agree to any such deal.

“Health care workers have overwhelmingly rejected employer demands that they take on more costs as a pre-condition for even a minimal wage increase,” she added.

About 70 per cent of the workers are members of the HEU, and others are represented by the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union, the B.C. Nurses Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 873. They have been without a contract since March 31.

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