B.C. nurses vote in favour of negotiated contract


Byline: Cindy E. Harnett 
B.C. nurses have voted in favour of a two-year contract negotiated last month with the Health Employers' Association of B.C.
More than 32,000 registered nurses and psychiatric nurses across B.C. voted almost 85 per cent to ratify a contract that will boost their pay and replace nurses on holiday or sick leave.
In the first year of the contract, nurses will have no wage increase. A three per cent increase will kick in on April 1, 2013.
Under the expired contract, a first-year nurse in direct patient service started at $30.79 an hour, rising to $42 an hour after nine years.
B.C. Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said in a statement Friday that the agreement meets the needs of patients, nurses and taxpayers.
The three per cent wage increase is offset in part by a move to a 37.5-hour work week, which will reduce overtime, the government said.
The agreement will boost nurses' work week by 90 minutes starting April 1, as well as provide the equivalent of 2,125 more nurses across the province by 2016 by increasing total straight-time nursing hours by more than 4.1 million.
The agreement specifically looks to reduce nurses' workloads through the addition of more nurses over the next four years, the ministry said.
The agreement affects nurses in the B.C. Nurses' Union, the Union of Psychiatric Nurses, and the Health Sciences Association.
The nurses' union says the contract includes clear, enforceable provisions that recognize and respect the clinical judgment of nurses - in particular, allowing them to call in more nurses to meet standards of care.
The nurses have been without a contract since March 31. It is one of the first agreements reached under the province's co-operative gains mandate, which gives public sector employers the ability to find cost savings to pay for modest wage increases.