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Nurses' Union leaders encourage 'yes' vote on contract extension

Amid charges of “secretive pre-election dealings” the B.C. Nurses' Union released details of a tentative agreement with the provincial government.

The deal to extend the BCNU collective agreement for two years gives no general wage increase to nurses, but includes a three percent labour market adjustment in each of 2010 and 2011.

A starting nurse at the first level would have been paid $29.02 an hour on April 1, 2009 when an already scheduled 4.2 percent increase goes into effect. That will go up to $29.89 in 2010 and $30.79 in 2011 with the newly agreed adjustments.

A March 16 notice to BCNU members said the union's council and elected representatives approved the tentative contract today and it will go to members for a ratification vote on April 8 with a recommendation to vote 'yes'.

“The tentative agreement reflects a positive recognition by the provincial government to deal with the critical need to retain and recruit nurses in the middle of an international nursing shortage, despite the current economic difficulties,” the bulletin said.

The agreement also allows for a new Joint Quality of Worklife Committee with members from the government and the union to address “key nursing practice and patient care issues.”

The Hospital Employees' Union criticized the BCNU's negotiation with the government in an earlier March 16 bulletin to HEU members and noted that the Health Sciences Association may get a similar contract extension.

“Hospital Employees' Union secretary-business manager Judy Darcy says government's secretive pre-election dealings with some health unions is in stark contrast to the transparent and coordinated bargaining approach established by former finance minister Carole Taylor in 2006,” the HEU bulletin said.

The 2006 process was “well-understood and fairly applied across the health care sector,” Darcy said. “Our members benefited from a process that was open, above-board and which took place within a realistic timeframe.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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