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Health science professionals identify wages as top bargaining priority for 2001

A wage increase will be the top priority when BC's 10,000 health science professionals head to the bargaining table early next year.

Cindy Stewart, President of the Health Sciences Association of BC (HSA) says that members of her union sent a clear message during the union's three-day bargaining conference held this week in Vancouver.

"After nearly a decade of wage controls, our members want a wage increase that recognizes their education level, skills and experience," Stewart says. "Many BC communities are facing a severe shortage of health science professionals and unless the government develops a comprehensive recruitment and retention strategy, the problem will only get worse."

Stewart says in addition to wages, HSA members identified increased compensation for on-call and improved educational opportunities as their top bargaining priorities.

"Health science professionals currently earn only $2 an hour be on call," Stewart explains. "Particularly in smaller communities where professionals provide hundreds of hours of on-call per month, the situation has become untenable."

Stewart also points out that although most health science professionals are required to update their education on a regular basis, most are unable to get time off work to take the required courses. Often, they are also required to take courses at their own expense.

"The health care system cannot function unless health science professionals are available to assist in the diagnosis, treatment and recovery of patients," Stewart says. "Our members want a contract that will help ensure health science professionals are there when patients need them. They are prepared to take whatever action is necessary to protect their professional integrity and the safety of patients."

Health science professionals include lab technologists, x-ray technologists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, radiation therapists, respiratory therapists, pre-school teachers, community mental health professionals, social workers, dietitians, health records administrators and speech and language pathologists.

The current contract for health science professionals expires March 31, 2001.

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For more information, contact:
Rebecca Maurer, Director of Communications
(604)439-0994 or (604)970-8196 cell.

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