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Vancouver (14 March 2013) – The B.C. Liberal government began debate last week on Bill 18, legislation that fundamentally alters bargaining in the health sector.
In a brief opening statement in the B.C. legislature, health minister Margaret MacDiarmid claimed the legislation was in line with last year’s raid by the B.C. Nurses’ Union (BCNU) on licensed practical nurses represented by the Hospital Employees' Union (HEU) and other unions. She then flew to Vancouver to announce Bill 18 at the BCNU convention.
MacDiarmid acknowledged she has been speaking with BCNU about the matter since last October but that she has not spoken to other affected unions about the bill or its potential impacts.
Of particular concern to the Health Sciences of B.C. (HSABC/NUPGE) is that the minister failed to consult HSABC/NUPGE, which is a member of the Nurses’ Bargaining Association. The union has represented registered psychiatric nurses in the bargaining association since its inception.
Jeanne Meyers, HSABC’s Executive Director of Legal and Labour Relations said the failure to consult on such an important and delicate piece of legislation governing the structure of bargaining associations and affecting collective bargaining is especially disturbing since the Supreme Court of Canada expressly ruled in 2007 that government had an obligation to consult.
“The Supreme Court of Canada agreed fundamental changes in labour relations should not be rammed through without consulting all the parties affected,” she said.
The legislation also affects HEU members. HEU secretary-business manager Bonnie Pearson says that the public is not well served by the government’s political opportunism and lack of consultation on this issue.
“Bill 18 has widespread implications for the entire health care team and will impact collective agreement rights, the management of health resources and the ability to change the skills mix on the nursing team,” says Pearson.
“As B.C.’s health minister, we would have expected Dr. MacDiarmid to be more concerned about the broader implications of this legislation and less concerned with attempting to produce a quick win for her political party. “She’s the B.C. minister of health, not the BCNU minister of health,” says Pearson.
During the two-hour debate in the legislature, NDP MLAs also expressed their concern for the lack of consultation and questioned the purpose of the bill. NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston told legislators that the health minister gave “no real explanation of why this legislation is being advanced at this time and what problem it is intended to solve.”
The BCNU has been condemned by the B.C. Federation of Labour for raiding union members in HSABC/NUPGE, HEU, B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) and other unions for the past several years – working to increase their membership numbers by getting members of other unions to switch to the BCNU.
Bill 18, entitled the Health Authority Amendment Act, redefines the composition of the Nurses Bargaining Association to include licensed practical nurses in addition to registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses.
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