Three new agreements offer five years of labour stability

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THREE five-year tentative agreements covering approximately 51,000 public-sector workers in three sectors have been reached under the new Economic Stability Mandate Finance Minister Michael de Jong announced on Tuesday.

The three agreements cover:

* almost 25,000 B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union members employed in the B.C. public service working in occupations that provide direct government services, including health care, public safety, social services, environmental management, and others.

* approximately 11,000 employees working in the community social services sector, including people working in the areas of Community Living Services, General Services and Aboriginal Services. The Community Social Services Bargaining Association represents several unions including the BCGEU, CUPE, HEU, HSA and the Canadian Labour Association of Canada.

* more than 15,000 community-health employees, including home-support workers who help the elderly in their homes, alcohol and drug counsellors, staff at adult-day centres and child-development centres and those working in mental-health group homes. The agreement is between the Health Employers’ Association of B.C. and the Community Bargaining Association, is comprised of several unions including the BCGEU, UFCW, HEU, CUPE and the HSA.

The three tentative agreements cover a five year term, from April 1, 2014, through March 31, 2019. They provide for modest fixed wage increases over the term of the agreements, plus the possibility of an economic growth-sharing dividend that would only be paid if the Province’s real gross domestic product exceeds the forecast set by the Economic Forecast Council published annually in the February Budget.

A tentative agreement was also reached in November between HEABC and the Health Science Association, covering more than 16,000 front-line health workers. This agreement is also subject to ratification.

The government’s Economic Stability Mandate provides public-sector employers the ability to negotiate longer-term agreements within a fixed fiscal envelope, and offers employees an opportunity to participate in the Province’s economic growth. Settlements are expected to be unique between sectors and reflect government’s priorities of having labour stability, affordable service delivery and a balanced budget.

Further details on the agreements will be available after ratification is complete.

Premier Christy Clark said: “These tentative agreements are a big step in the right direction. For the provincial government, they mean stability as we maintain our commitment to balancing the budget throughout our mandate. But for more than 50,000 hardworking men and women in B.C.’s public sector, these agreements would have a much more immediate and personal impact – long-term labour peace, and a chance to share the benefits of a growing economy.”

De Jong said: “These tentative agreements are noteworthy, not only for the five-year term and the opportunity for public sector workers to share in the benefits of stronger than forecast economic growth, but also because they were reached five months before the previous agreements expired.

“Together with the tentative settlement reached with the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association in early November, these tentative agreements cover about 71,000 people working in three different sectors. If ratified, almost one-quarter of the unionized employees across B.C.’s public sector would be covered by five years of labour stability.

“Each of these agreements is different, to reflect the needs of the members in each sector. I expect that we will see that pattern continue with subsequent agreements. These agreements are the product of give-and-take at the bargaining table, but they have in common a desire to support and improve the delivery of quality services at an affordable and manageable cost to taxpayers within the government’s balanced budget.”