British Columbia’s nurses and health employers have voted in favour of a new five-year agreement that aims to improve health care for patients and families.
“The ratification of this agreement is a great example of what can be achieved when we work cooperatively with our health care partners,” Health Minister Terry Lake said. “We look forward to moving ahead in a spirit of collaboration with B.C.’s nurses as we continue to transform and improve the delivery of health services – for the benefit of patients and staff.”
Consistent with the Economic Stability Mandate, the agreement provides members of the Nurses’ Bargaining Association (NBA) with a 5.5% wage increase over the five-year term, with the potential for additional increases if the B.C. economy exceeds annual forecasts.
“This agreement will improve conditions for nurses and their patients, making it easier to deliver safe care,” said Gayle Duteil, president of the BC Nurses’ Union. “I welcome the new processes which give nurses a stronger voice in the shaping of health care policy with the ministry and at the health authority decision-makers’ tables. And finally, I am very proud of the ground-breaking initiatives we have agreed to in order to prevent violence and improve safety in every workplace.”
“The employer and union bargaining committees both showed tremendous commitment to the process to achieve this agreement,” said Tony Collins, interim president and CEO, Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC). “Even though we had our disagreements, both parties remained focused on the goal of improving patient care and working conditions for health care professionals.”
Further to the agreement, the Ministry of Health has committed to enhancing nurse education, workplace safety and rural recruitment and retention of nurses to support broader health system improvements. New funding will ensure nurses are trained to work where they are needed most, such as in community care settings and specialty areas, like operating rooms.
Building on positive work on violence prevention started at four priority sites in 2015, the Ministry of Health and the NBA have each committed an additional $2 million in funding for violence prevention actions at additional sites. A provincial violence prevention framework will also bring consistency to workplace violence prevention across all health authorities.
As well, the Ministry of Health has committed $2 million to implement solutions to address rural and remote recruitment and retention issues throughout B.C.
The Ministry of Health is working with health-care providers, health authorities and community agencies on a comprehensive strategy to improve access to integrated primary and community health-care services across the province. Nurses play a key role in this strategy, and will be involved in this work through a new ministry Nursing Policy Secretariat.
Recruitment is a key issue for the health system and the ministry has been working with the NBA to ensure a sustainable supply of nurses. That’s why the Province recently committed to creating 1,643 additional permanent nursing positions across the health system. The most recent numbers available show more than 1,500 nurses have been hired into the new full-time nursing positions – over 95% of the target – through a combination of newly hired nurses and casual nurses whose positions were upgraded to permanent status.
The agreement between the NBA and HEABC is the last of the health sector collective agreements to be negotiated under the Province’s Economic Stability Mandate. The 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.
A backgrounder follows.