Community health workers and the provincial government reached a tentative agreement on a new two-year contract this week.
The Community Bargaining Association, which represents a collection of 10 unions, and the Health Employers Association of B.C., agreed to terms on a deal for about 14,000 employees working in fields ranging from home-support workers to substance abuse counsellors and staff at adul t day centres, child-development centres and mental-health group homes.
The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union is the largest labour group in the coalition and represents more than 120 workers in Prince George, primarily working for Northern Health. The two biggest groups locally are public and mental health workers (28 members) and home and community care workers (24 members).
The agreement calls for a three per cent wage increase - two per cent upon ratification and another one per cent on April 1. The unions are also touting improvements to contract language on issues like grievances and probationary periods.
In a news release, Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said the wage increases fit within the co-operative gains framework the province has been using when negotiating with public-sector employees. The government said employers have the flexibility to make savings in other areas so that the wage increases won't result in more taxpayer spending.
Meanwhile, workers at B.C. Hydro also completed the ratification of a two-year agreement this week. About 4,000 workers represented by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 258 and the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union Local 378 voted in favour of the deal which calls for a four per cent wage increase over two years, retroactive to April 1, 2012. The agreement has also been ratified by B.C. Hydro.