From the Desk of the President – October 2023
It’s hard to believe that another Labour Day weekend has come and gone. I hope that many of you were able to get out to events around the province put on by local Labour Councils promoting and celebrating the work of the labour movement. To keep informed about the work of the Canadian Labour Congress, sign up for regular news here: Labour Day 2023 | Canadian Labour Congress
For many of us at HSA – board and committee members, steward teams, and staff – it has been a busy summer season preparing for an active fall filled with initiatives ensuring the provisions of our new collective agreements are implemented, planning for annual Regional Meetings, electing new steward teams, and preparing activist training workshops while continuing to advocate for members’ collective agreement and occupational health and safety rights in the workplace.
For many members, the summer brought incredible stress as BC experienced the most destructive ever recorded wildfire season, with the wildfires forcing people from their homes. The wildfires span all across our province, stretching from Vancouver Island through the Okanagan to the Kootenays, the Central and Northern Interior, and the Peace Region.
We know that many HSA members were under orders to evacuate, and that some members lost their homes this summer.
At the height of the wildfire season, the Board of Directors established an emergency relief fund to assist members forced from their homes due to evacuation orders. The fund was initially established at $20,000. But it became quickly apparent that the need was much greater, and the Board of Directors tripled the union’s commitment to support members with a $500 financial contribution per affected HSA household impacted by an evacuation order. The Board of Directors felt it was important to support members using our collective capacity to help those in need.
As climate change fuelled events continue to strike with increased frequency, we know this won’t be the last time HSA members will need support. With this in mind, this fall the Board of Directors will be discussing the establishment of a dedicated budget to address the impact of climate disasters on members and communities. Among the strategies for discussion will be an ongoing relief fund to address such crises in the future, and our continued participation in climate change focused work of the labour movement at the provincial and national levels.
Work of the Committees and the Board
Your HSA committees have been at work since being constituted after the union’s last annual convention in April 2023. Board members and elected Members-At-Large serve on the union’s committees addressing a range of issues important to members. The Committee for Equality and Social Action (CESA), Constitutional and Organizational Policy, Education, OH&S, Political Action, and Racial Justice Committees have all met to begin the work of implementing resolutions from your chapters that delegates passed at the 2023 Convention In addition, the Young Workers’ Advisory Group has done a great deal of work developing terms of reference and structure for the new Young Workers’ Committee, which should be finalized this fall, and our EDI team has facilitated a number of equity-deserving caucus meetings and worked with members to develop an Indigenous Circle.
Speaking of Convention, next year’s annual Convention will be held the week of April 29th, 2024. Once the exact dates are finalized this fall, we will advise members so that those who plan to attend have as much notice as possible to set the time aside.
This fall, we will also be starting on getting member input to help inform the work the Board of Directors is doing to develop a strategic plan to guide the union’s work over the coming five years. The fall regional meetings have been an opportunity for activists to spend time looking ahead. Over the course of the next several months, there will be other opportunities for your input through tools like surveys and local chapter meeting discussions.
Over the summer months, I had opportunity to visit a number of HSA worksites. Hearing directly from you is an important part of ensuring that your union advocates for you, and brings your stories and experiences to the decision makers in government. I was able to visit sites in Victoria, including Royal Jubilee, Victoria General and Saanich Peninsula Hospitals. In the Fraser Valley, Region 7 Board Member Sarah Kooner and I met with members at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Fraser Canyon Hospital in Hope.
I was also able to meet with members at Starbright Child Development Centre (CDC) in Kelowna and Penticton Regional Hospital along with Region 8 Board Member Heath McLeod.
I’ve also attended meetings with members at St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver General Hospital and BC Cancer (Vancouver). Most recently, I was on the Sunshine Coast at Sechelt Hospital and the long-term care facility at Totem Lodge.
These visits help me and other board members gain valuable insights into the different issues that you face, whether you are in an urban setting, a rural location, or in acute or community based health care or social services worksites. The work that each and every one of you does is so important and critically needed and plays a vital role in our province; and we know that many of you struggle to provide those services in the face of shortages and recruitment and retention challenges. We bring those stories front and center to our meetings with government and other decision-makers.
HSA Alberta Young Worker Empowerment Conference
I, along with two members of the Young Workers’ Advisory Group and Region 4 Board Member Alexandra Thomson, was fortunate enough to be invited as guests to HSA Alberta’s Young Worker Empowerment Conference in August. We left that conference with a number of ideas that will help our new Young Workers’ Committee establish its place in the union’s work on a broad range of issues affecting younger workers.
This year, HSA continued its support for Pride events by marching in the Vancouver Pride Parade as part of BC Fed’s Multi-Union Pride entry, and also at Richmond’s first ever Pride Walk, which was very well-attended by members of the community. During these times when anti-trans and homophobia is on the rise, these equity-denied groups must be supported loudly and proudly.
Collective Agreement implementation
For those of you in HSPBA who are currently paying Professional Dues or College Fees, your bargaining team has negotiated a fund that will provide reimbursement of those fees. This fund is administered by HSA and just rolled out to members this summer. For more information, please visit the HSA website here: Health Sciences Association | HSPBA: 2023 Professional Fees Reimbursement (hsabc.org)
One of the major changes that will affect every member of HSPBA is the redesign of the current classification system. Members should expect to receive their job description and where they will fit into the new classification profile in the Fall from the employer. We have been preparing throughout the summer to provide training to LROs and to stewards, and will be adding more resources including an online tool to help guide you through this process. Please keep an eye out for that communication from your employer about your job description and new classification profile.
Occupational Health and Safety
A number of important improvements for better communication and education addressing occupational health and safety in all our public sector collective agreements were achieved in the last round of bargaining. HSA members are represented on a number of those committees, as work is underway to develop resources through SWITCH BC.
That’s just a snippet of what has been a very active summer across HSA and BC. As we wrap up our Regional Meetings I want to thank everyone who has come out, it has been great to see you!