$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.

Decriminalization a ‘good first step’ in destigmatizing drug use, says CUPE Health Care Presidents Council

VANCOUVER—Yesterday’s announcement that the federal government plans to decriminalize small-scale possession of illicit drugs in B.C. represents a long-overdue policy shift away from stigmatizing substance use and instead addressing drug addiction as a health issue, says CUPE’s Health Care Presidents Council (HCPC).

Starting next year, Canadians aged 18 years and older will be able to possess up to a cumulative 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA within British Columbia. This exemption from the law criminalizing drug possession means there will be no arrests, charges or seizures for personal possession at or below the 2.5-gram threshold.

The new federal policy follows a request from the provincial government for an exemption. Both federal and provincial ministers for mental health and addictions, Carolyn Bennett and Sheila Malcolmson, respectively, announced the policy shift together at yesterday’s media conference.

“CUPE health care workers are encouraged by this first step in addressing the opioid crisis that many of our members have been working for years to combat. It’s a good first step,” said HCPC chair Tuesday Andrich.

“We have been calling for just such a policy change for a very long time, so it’s good to see all levels of government taking the issue seriously. This kind of collaboration is difficult, but the united front that B.C. and Ottawa have shown demonstrates that all levels of government can work together to effect positive change.”

Andrich added that much more work needs to be done to address the poisoned drug supply crisis in B.C.

“Now that we are seeing this change around decriminalization, let’s see if they can do it on the safe supply issue,” she said.

“Many people still hide their addiction and use drugs alone, and with an epidemic of illicit drug toxicity, this can mean dying alone. Evidence-based research—and our own experience in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island—tells us that safe supply will have the greatest impact on saving lives, and CUPE will continue to advocate for these necessary changes.”

Health Care presidents reissue call for more sector support

BURNABY—The community health sector continues to suffer from systemic challenges arising from staffing shortages, workload, and mental health issues and needs more support in these areas, CUPE’s Health Care Presidents Council concluded at their quarterly meeting held on Thursday.

In addition to local updates and a sector bargaining review, Council members discussed a report from Local 15 member Benita Spindel, CUPE’s Enhanced Disability Management Program (EDMP) representative. Following Spindel’s report, which raised some of the challenges of her rising case load, the presidents discussed the status of the EDMP and explored ways to better support the program in the future.

Council members also held a longer discussion about raising more public awareness of sector challenges through broader consultation with constituent unions of the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) and Community Health Bargaining Association (CBA).

In bargaining, no further talks have been scheduled for the HSPBA table after Thursday’s session. The CBA also wraps up bargaining this week, with two more sessions scheduled in June.

Also at the meeting, HCPC chair Tuesday Andrich (CUPE 1004) thanked retiring CUPE National representative Lee Mossman for his service as sector coordinator and welcomed CUPE National representative Andrew Ledger, former HCPC chair, as the new sector coordinator.

HSPBA Bargaining Update – Third round of discussions now underway

The Health Science Professional Bargaining Association (HSPBA) resumed talks last week with the Health Employers’ Association of BC (HEABC). Discussions are scheduled to continue this week and next.

Negotiations are currently focussed on non-monetary matters, but during the last round of talks ending April 14, HSPBA proposed wage increases needed to make meaningful improvements to professional shortages, workload, the rising cost of living and the wage gap with other provinces. The proposal seeks a two-year agreement with a wage increase of 5 per cent—or COLA (cost of living adjustment), whichever is greater—in each of the two years.

HSPBA has also proposed a number of other measures that would bring greater equality to job classifications across different health science professions in B.C. and greater comparability to pay in other provinces, improve on call and call-backs, improve overtime pay and shift premiums, provide more funding for professional development, improve vacation and holiday leave, paid and unpaid pandemic leave, and provide a bank of paid time for gender-affirming surgeries.

We expect HEABC to provide a response to the wage proposal during this round, and we will provide an update at that time.

Meanwhile, pleasure ensure that your contact information is up to date. If your address or other information has changed, you can update it at: https://forms.office.com/r/mXDGtvAhWb.

CBA makes progress on non-monetary bargaining issues

Over the past two weeks, your bargaining association has been meeting with the Health Employers’ Association of BC (HEABC) to discuss key proposals related to your mobility within health authorities and ways to make your collective agreement gender neutral and more inclusive for Indigenous and Transgender workers.

We are working to ensure that everyone sees themselves represented in the language of your collective agreement.

We are scheduled to meet again, starting on May 9, for two weeks. Our aim in those sessions is to conclude all non-monetary talks and move into more substantial negotiations on monetary issues.

Your Community Health negotiations team remains committed to achieving wages that are in line with wages for workers doing the same jobs under the health facilities collective agreement and that keep up with the rising cost of living.

We’ll keep you updated when we return to the table.

In solidarity,

Your Community Health Bargaining Association

Categories CBA

HSPBA Bargaining Update – Union negotiators propose wage increases

The Health Science Professional Bargaining Association (HSPBA), in talks this week with the Health Employers’ Association of BC (HEABC), has proposed a wage increase for health science professionals that, if accepted, would begin to address the critical issues undermining pandemic response and public health care in B.C.: chronic shortages, the rising cost of living, and the wage gap with other provinces.

The proposal seeks a two-year agreement with a wage increase of 5 per cent—or COLA (cost of living adjustment), whichever is greater—in each of the two years.

HSPBA has also proposed a number of other measures that would bring greater equality to job classifications across different health science professions in B.C. and greater comparability to pay in other provinces. They would also improve on-call and call-backs, improve overtime pay and shift premiums, provide more funding for professional development, improve vacation and holiday leave, paid and unpaid pandemic leave, and provide a bank of paid time for gender-affirming surgeries.

HSPBA has been in contract negotiations with HEABC since March 1. Prior to tabling the wage proposal this week, the bargaining committee made proposals concerning occupational health and safety matters related to workload, discrimination and harassment, facilitation of health sector-wide action on OH&S issues, and classification proposals addressing concerns with employer-wide initiatives. Talks will now pause for a scheduled break while the bargaining committee awaits the employer’s response to these proposals.

Unions representing almost 400,000 public sector workers are currently in negotiations. With employer proposals for wage increases falling well below the current level of inflation in B.C., the HSPBA awaits an official response to the wage increase proposals tabled this week. CUPE and other unions covered by HSPBA are working closely to ensure fair and reasonable gains for the front-line workers who have kept the province and the health care system running through an unprecedented global health crisis.

The HSPBA master agreement covering health science professionals in B.C. expired on March 31. Its provisions remain in force until a new agreement is ratified.

Negotiations will resume on May 2. Meanwhile, please ensure that your contact information is current. To update it, please visit: https://forms.office.com/r/mXDGtvAhWb.

HSPBA Bargaining Update – Wage proposal on track to be tabled next week

Despite news on Thursday of an impasse in public sector bargaining between the provincial government and its direct employees over wages, the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) is preparing to table a wage proposal for health science professionals next week that addresses staff shortages, the rising cost of living, and closes the wage gap between B.C. and other provinces.

BCGEU, the union representing direct government employees, announced yesterday that after nine weeks of talks it will take a break from bargaining to focus on negotiating essential services levels required to keep necessary government services running in the event of a strike or lockout, and preparing to take a strike vote to back contract demands. The break in bargaining was precipitated by the failure of the government to table a wage package that protects government workers from the skyrocketing cost of living in British Columbia.

HSPBA’s bargaining committee, which has been in active contract negotiations with HEABC since March 28, is scheduled to pause for a break at the end of next week. The Bargaining Committee has to date made proposals addressing a number of priorities identified by members. These include occupational health and safety matters related to workload, discrimination and harassment, facilitation of health sector-wide action on OHS issues, and classification proposals addressing concerns with employer-wide initiatives.

The Bargaining Committee is also committed to changes that address colonial features of the collective agreement. In the current round of talks, the Bargaining Committee is tabling equity and inclusion initiatives as well as removing colonial language.

CUPE, along with the other unions covered by HSPBA, has been actively negotiating essential services levels since January. We are also watching developments at other public sector bargaining tables closely, as a number of public sector agreements expired on March 31, 2022.

CUPE continues to work in close collaboration with our allies in other unions to achieve fair contracts for all workers who have been on the frontlines of protecting and serving British Columbians through the COVID-19 pandemic, and the opioid and climate catastrophes.

Meanwhile, please ensure that your contact information is up to date. If there have been changes, you can update your contact information at: https://forms.office.com/r/mXDGtvAhWb

HSPBA Bargaining Update – Initial round of talks complete

The HSPBA Bargaining Committee has concluded the initial round of discussions with the Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC), which began March 3.

To date, the Committee has tabled language in three areas:

  • Housekeeping and non-monetary language, including amendments that will address outdated and colonial language in the collective agreement;
  • Occupational health and safety matters related to workload, discrimination and harassment, and facilitation of health sector-wide action on OHS issues; and
  • Classification proposals addressing concerns with employer-side initiatives.

The union and employer sides have agreed on some important changes to address the colonization of the collective agreement. Our occupational health and safety and classification proposals are complex and under consideration by the employer caucus during a two-week hiatus in negotiations. The union caucus will be focusing on developing a monetary package in light of information emerging about signs of a restrictive wage proposal from government.

Negotiations will resume when the Committee and HEABC return to the table on March 28.  At that time we will be tabling equity and inclusion initiatives and exploring monetary discussion.

Please ensure that your contact information is current. You can use this link to update your information: https://forms.office.com/r/mXDGtvAhWb .

Employer’s initial wage proposal is deeply disappointing

The Health Employers’ Association of BC (HEABC) tabled their initial wage proposal for the Community Health agreement, and we are deeply disappointed. We need a significant investment in front-line workers to address the staffing crisis in community health and we won’t accept anything less.

We expect challenging monetary negotiations, but the last weeks of bargaining have shown us that when we stand together, with your support, we can achieve important improvements for our sector.

These past weeks we addressed a number of key areas including overtime, harassment, and portability of seniority. At the table we shared personal stories from your workplaces, and made it impossible for the employer to ignore the issues you face on daily basis and the deteriorating state of our sector. Thanks to all of you who took the time to share your personal stories with us.

We’ve heard from you that you’ve had to choose at times between caring for your children or your clients because of forced overtime due to short staffing. You told us that many community health workers are forced to put yourselves at risk, driving at unsafe speeds, to stick to an unrealistic schedule. Some of you are losing a decade or more of seniority when you apply for a new position—even when it is with the same employer.

There are countless stories, and the common theme is that workers in the community health sector have been overworked, underpaid and disrespected for too long. With your help, we’ve moved the employer on some of our top issues but there is still a lot of work to do. We will all need to do more.

We will be calling on you to talk to your coworkers and ensure that they are receiving updates and ready to act when it’s time to apply more pressure to the employer. We’ll be back at the bargaining table in April and will keep you updated. In the meantime, if you need to update your contact information, please visit this link: https://forms.office.com/r/xBwFjh3WF8.

 

In solidarity,

Your Community Bargaining Association

Categories CBA