2022 HSPBA Pay Increases Expected in Approximately Six Weeks

CUPE HSPBA members can expect to begin receiving pay raises towards the end of next month.

Timing and delivery of the new pay rates are entirely in the hands of the employer. With the recent agreement on the formulation of wage schedules, the employer is expected to begin making the necessary payroll changes. This is expected to take about six weeks, in line with the implementation seen in comparable contract negotiations.

Pay increases negotiated as part of the 2022-2025 Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association Collective Agreement, ratified by members on December 21, 2022, will also deliver retroactive payments going back to the first pay period after April 1, 2022. Again, in line with the implementation seen in comparable contract negotiations, retroactive payments can be expected to take a further three weeks after members see the new higher rates on their pay statements.

Members can expect an average general wage increase of 3.83 percent in the first year of the new contract, ending March 31, 2023. Pay increases will be at least 5.5 percent and 2 percent in the second and third years respectively, plus any Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increases should inflation remain above the negotiated percentage wage increases. Over the three-year agreement, all members will see a pay increase of a minimum of approximately 12 percent to 14 percent, plus increases that may result from the comprehensive review of job classifications in 2023 and 2024.

Health science professionals ratify new collective agreement

Members of the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association have voted 77 per cent in favour of accept a new collective agreement effective April 21, 2022 to March 31, 2025.

Highlights of the contract include a general wage increase of about 12-14 per cent over three years for all members, plus additional increases for most members based on a review of all classifications over this period. The general wage increase is retroactive to April 1, 2022.

“The CUPE bargaining committee went to the table with our members’ priorities clear from the start. These included making significant wage increases, given that we had fallen behind our colleagues in other provinces and even other health authorities within B.C.” said HSPBA bargaining committee and CUPE 15 member Jennifer Kassimatis.

“Our members also wanted us to address recruitment and retention, as so many health science professionals continue to struggle with unsustainable workloads. We were determined to achieve an agreement that would reflect the true importance of health science professionals within the health care system.”

HSPBA lead negotiator Jeanne Meyers said the new collective agreement also includes strategies and action addressing severe staff shortages in the health science professions.

“This contract is important for health science professionals, not just because it raises wages to competitive levels across the country but also because it establishes ongoing processes to address shortages and vacancies, and it recognizes the critical role health science professionals play on the health care team, including asserting their right to a safe and healthy workplace,” said Meyers.

For the first time in decades, the contract provides significant pay increases. In addition:

  • Cost of Living Adjustments are built in to protect pay against longer-term increases in inflation.
  • Improvements to premiums for on-call, short-notice, super shifts and weekend shifts will put more money in many members’ pockets.
  • A long-overdue update to the classification system provides more recognition of the complexity and scope of work, more opportunity for career advancement, and more respect.
  • Specific provisions address the recruitment and retention crisis.
  • Occupational health and safety changes address mental health under duress, unsafe workloads, infection control standards, access to personal protective equipment and prevention of violence in the workplace.
  • Enhanced education leaves support professional development.
  • A new focus on implementing recommendations to support the inclusion of Indigenous workers, patients and clients will work toward reconciliation and culturally-safe health care.
  • Inclusion of communities that experience marginalization in the health care system is a major priority.

In addition to Indigenous-specific anti-racism measures agreed to in the collective agreement, HSPBA was successful in negotiating a ground-pilot project to explore alternatives to the Christian/colonial focus on statutory holidays to better reflect the diverse cultures and practices of health care workers.

The general wage increases are retroactive to the first pay period after April 1, 2022, and the new premium rates are effective as of December 22, 2022.

HSPBA professional development fund applications now open to CUPE members

CUPE health science professionals can now apply for new professional development funds announced in the spring under an agreement reached between the provincial Ministry of Health and the Health Sciences Professional Bargaining Association (HSPBA).

All health science professionals covered by the HSPBA collective agreement, which includes members of HSA, BCGEU, CUPE, PEA and HEU, are eligible to apply for funding, which will be allocated to the constituent unions on a pro-rata basis.

Key points about the new professional development funding:

  • The funding is to be allocated to training and upgrading skills for HSPBA members working in professions experiencing shortages, or in rural and remote locations, as well as ongoing required professional development for all HSPBA members;
  • The funding will apply to education or training commenced between September 1, 2022 and August 31, 2023. The application form should be submitted ASAP and no later than August 31, 2023;
  • The education or training must pertain to professional development in a health science professional discipline being practiced in the public health care system; and
  • Eligible expenses for reimbursement include tuition fees, registration fees, cost of required books or materials, and other reasonable education-related expenses and may also include reasonable costs of travel and accommodation if the applicant must travel or temporarily relocate to attend education or training or related clinical placement.

Successful applicants will be reimbursed upon proof of completion of the program applied for, along with receipt for costs claimed. If a course, program or workshop is cancelled or otherwise not attended, the application will be cancelled and the member must reapply on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, see the eligibility requirements and frequently asked questions.

To apply now, fill out this form.

B.C.’s 22,000 specialized health care professionals reach tentative agreement

B.C.’s 22,000 specialized health professionals working in hospitals and communities around the province reached a tentative agreement late Wednesday night after more than eight months of negotiations between the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) and Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC).

Jeanne Meyers, executive director of Health Sciences Association of BC (HSA) and lead negotiator for the HSPBA, said the multi-union bargaining association went to the table with strong direction from members to address wages that have fallen behind their colleagues across the country. Members also wanted to see recruitment and retention strategies to support specialized health care professionals working under crushing workloads, and respect for the critical contributions of specialized health care professionals on the health care team.

CUPE bargaining committee team member Jennifer Kassimatis said that CUPE members were clear about their priorities for this round of bargaining.

“Our bargaining team worked tirelessly to ensure that we would achieve gains for our members in many areas, beginning with a general wage increase—in line with other provincial public sector agreements—that recognizes the rising cost of living,” said Kassimatis. She added that the tentative agreement also redesigns the outdated classification system and removes barriers to accessing positions in the HSPBA agreement for Indigenous workers while also building in cultural recognition for those workers.

CUPE Health coordinator Andrew Ledger said the agreement also provides some recognition of the extensive hours worked by our members throughout the pandemic and the many challenges they continue to face.

“The committee is proud of the accomplishments made in this tentative agreement,” said Ledger. “We look forward to upcoming information sessions, where we will provide more details about the significant gains we’ve made and recommend acceptance.”

Important features of the tentative agreement include:

  • General wage increase that acknowledges the impact of the rising cost of living.
  • Overhaul of an outdated job classification system to better recognize the complexity and scope of the work of CUPE members on the specialized health care team.
  • Provisions to address the recruitment and retention crisis.
  • Addressing occupational health and safety issues ranging from workers’ mental health, unsafe workloads, improved infection control standards, access to personal protective equipment and violence prevention.
  • Acting on recommendations from the In Plain Sight report on the experience of Indigenous workers, patients, and clients in the health care system to work toward reconciliation and culturally safe health care.
  • Plotting a roadmap for improved inclusion within the health care workforce for communities that experience marginalization.
  • Scheduling and leave provisions to improve work-life balance.
  • Improvements to continuing education and recognition of professional status.

HSPBA represents workers in five unions: HSA, CUPE, BCGEU, PEA, and HEU. Health science professionals are critical members of the multidisciplinary health care team, providing specialized health care services in acute, rehabilitation, community, and long-term care settings. CUPE positions covered by the contract include environmental health officers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and social workers, among others.

Complete information about the tentative agreement will be provided to members across the province in the coming weeks, with dates for an online ratification vote to be determined.

HSPBA Bargaining Update: Advancing proposals on central concerns

Since the resumption of negotiations at the end of September, the HSPBA Bargaining Committee has been working to advance measures to address recruitment, retention, shortage, and workload issues which drive so many of the serious problems affecting the public health care system, the people who depend on it, and the professionals who keep it running.

The employers remain resistant to covering the final distance to agreement on these matters. However, we are pleased to report progress on initiatives addressing Truth and Reconciliation, improving the working lives of Indigenous members, and promoting cultural safety for all specialized health professionals. The discussions are also addressing general safety and wellness concerns.

As an important objective, the Bargaining Committee has also proposed improvements to union representation in the workplaces – by adding more paid stewards.

Cost of living issues remains a central focus of the HSPBA’s Bargaining Committee’s efforts. Recently, two agreements, led by negotiators at the Hospital Employees Union and the BC General Employees Union, were accepted in ratification votes by their respective members. While not achieving the level of gains initially sought, each goes much further towards addressing concerns with inflation than any agreement has in over two decades and gives some sense of current discussions on wage increases.

As negotiations proceed through the critical phase of the next few weeks, ensuring all members receive these email updates is vital. Please ask fellow members if they are receiving these updates and encourage them to update their contact information with your Local.

HSA legal challenge results in nearly $10 million payout for HSPBA members

Health sciences professionals covered by the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) 2014-2019 collective agreement will receive a payout of close to $10 million as the result of a legal victory by the Health Sciences Association of British Columbia (HSA), the lead union in the HSPBA. The HSPBA represents 20,000 specialized health professionals working in hospitals and communities across B.C., including CUPE members.

The $10 million legal settlement, awarded by Arbitrator John Hall, is tied to the 2014-2019 collective agreement. It is not related to the current round of HSPBA bargaining, where union negotiators are focused on achieving a fair contract that addresses the serious impacts of chronic shortages and the rising cost of living.

In bargaining the 2014-2019 contract, government negotiators unequivocally told the HSPBA bargaining team that a move away from a direct benefit plan to a joint trust model for administering extended health benefits was a necessary feature of any collective agreement negotiated in the public health care sector in that round of bargaining. Three of four public sector health care collective agreements negotiated included the change.

In his decision, Hall found the HSPBA agreement was breached when government signed a contract with the Nurses Bargaining Association that did not include a change to a joint trust model, and a monetary remedy was justified under a “me-too” provision negotiated in the agreement.

The $9.44 million (plus interest) award represents the difference paid to the HSPBA and NBA in overall compensation to fund the benefits plans.

HSPBA includes health science professionals represented by HSA, BC General Employees Union (BCGEU), CUPE, Professional Employees’ Association (PEA), and Hospital Employees Union (HEU).

BCGEU strike update: What you should know

Dear CUPE members:

Since the BCGEU gave strike notice to the Public Service Agency on Friday (August 12), members of other unions including CUPE have been asking how any potential job action might affect them. With the BCGEU in a legal strike position as of 2:46 pm today (Monday, August 15), here is what we know:

  • The only BCGEU members who can participate in legal job action are members of the B.C. public service bargaining unit, sometimes referred to as the “Main Agreement”;
  • There are currently no other Provincial Bargaining tables at an impasse. Our members will continue to work; and
  • There are two “common sites” identified by HEABC in which Health Sector members work in a building where BCGEU members from the public service bargaining unit also work. For those sites, CUPE and other health sector unions will appear at the Labour Board to ensure that our members can safely enter the workplace without crossing a picket line. The local presidents of 1978 and 4816 have been advised of the sites and reviewed the access plans. More details will be shared at the local level if necessary.

The BCGEU job action will evolve over the coming days. If any developments impact our Health Sector members, we will send updates as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, if you see a picket line away from your place of work it is important not to cross it. CUPE members can show solidarity with striking workers by respecting their picket lines, showing support with a honk if driving by, or talking to the striking workers and giving comments of support from CUPE.

 

In solidarity,

Andrew Ledger
CUPE Health Coordinator

HSPBA Bargaining update: Work continues over summer

As we enter the summer, unions leading negotiations for health science professionals (Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association – HSPBA), community health (Community Bargaining Association – CBA) and community social services (Community Social Services Bargaining Association – CSSBA) continue to co-ordinate efforts to speak with a louder voice to support common goals.

Along with other unions and negotiating tables, the HSPBA negotiating committee has tabled a wage proposal that seeks to deal with rising inflation. We have not yet had a substantive response on this. However, members may be aware that the BC General Employees Union, which was scheduled for an earlier start to negotiations this year, has received—and rejected—a wage offer.

BCGEU members recently voted 95 per cent in favour of going on strike to back contract demands for the direct government employees public service contract. The BCGEU is focusing its efforts over the next several weeks on negotiating essential services levels in anticipation of possible job action. B.C.’s essential services legislation requires that agreement be reached on essential services of staffing required to protect the public from immediate and serious danger, while balancing workers’ right to strike.

CUPE and other unions in the health care sector have been working on establishing agreement on essential service staffing levels since January, ensuring that CUPE is in a position to support job action in the event that bargaining breaks down at any of the health care bargaining tables.

If your bargaining committee is not able to get to a tentative agreement that they believe meets your needs, they may make a recommendation to conduct a strike vote to show the employer they have your full support for a contract that values the work you do.

HSPBA negotiations for all the member unions, conducted by professional negotiators, subject experts on labour relations issues, and members elected by their colleagues to bring front-line perspectives, are now on a scheduled pause. However, a working group will continue throughout the summer to negotiate items addressing issues of health and safety.

There are still significant health and safety issues to deal with, such as workload, fatigue, point-of-care risk assessments, access to PPE, violence prevention, and support for the new Health Care Occupational Health and Safety Society (SWITCH BC). Focused discussions on OH&S issues led by a small sub-committee have made some encouraging progress to date. The joint employer/HSPBA group met separately on seven occasions since bargaining began in March, and has reached tentative agreement in key areas. These include new language on the employers’ responsibility to address threats of violence against workers or their families, requirements for employers to consult with joint occupational health and safety committees on risks associated with musculoskeletal injuries, new language on health and safety training for supervisors, and improved language covering potentially violent or aggressive behaviour from patients, residents or clients.

There are no plans for job action for members covered by the HSPBA contract at this time. While progress at the negotiating table is slow, we remain focused on achieving movement when discussions resume after the summer pause.

In the event that you do encounter a picket line this summer, do not cross, and contact your union for direction.

$3 million in new funding secured for professional development of HSPBA members

A total of $3 million will soon be available for professional development of health care workers who are members of the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA), thanks to new funding secured from the BC Ministry of Health.

The funding, which matches the total provided in 2018 and 2021, is aimed at supporting further specialization of skills in key professions and will be available to all health science professionals covered by the HSPBA collective agreement. With B.C.’s health care system now struggling with dire shortages of health science professions in many disciplines, the funding is an important part of the urgent action needed to train, recruit and retain these specialized health professionals.

The funding is to be allocated to training and upgrading skills for HSPBA members working in professions experiencing shortages, or in rural and remote locations, as well as ongoing required professional development for all HSPBA members. The funding will apply to education or training commenced between April 1, 2022 and August 31, 2023. The education or training must pertain to professional development in a health science professional discipline being practiced in the public health care system.

Eligible expenses for reimbursement include tuition fees, registration fees, cost of required books or materials, and other reasonable education-related expenses. These may also include reasonable costs of travel and accommodation if the applicant must travel or temporarily relocate to attend education or training or related clinical placement.

All health science professionals covered by the HSPBA collective agreement, which includes members of HSA, BCGEU, CUPE, PEA and HEU, are eligible to apply for funding. Application forms will be available very soon.

HSPBA Bargaining Update: Frequently Asked Questions on Bargaining and Job Action

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

Negotiations continue, and progress is being made, but more slowly than 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. We hope to make as much progress on this as possible before negotiations pause for a summer break.

The committee continues to work hard to achieve the goals set by health science professionals at last fall’s bargaining proposal 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 well being.

FAQs

The HSPBA’s lead union has posted a series of FAQs based on questions about how the bargaining process works, and what happens if job action becomes necessary. The full list is posted here. Below are a number of the most common questions:

Our current contract expired in March. What happens now?

While the contracts covering CUPE members in community health expired on 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 the union, subject experts on specialized labour relations matters, and ordinary CUPE members elected by their peers to ensure member concerns are addressed at the bargaining table and in the new agreement.

When might we go on strike?

Negotiations for the contracts covering CUPE members began in March 2022 and are 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, CUPE 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 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, and before taking any sort of job action, we must take a strike vote.

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 CUPE 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, the union will take over responsibility for scheduling the work needed to achieve essential services, and in order to be eligible for these essential service shifts, CUPE 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. CUPE 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 the union.