From the Desk of the President: April 2023
When I last reported to members in November 2022 on the work of the union, contract talks were underway for our members in the Health Science Professionals, Community Health, and Community Social Services collective agreements. Since then, members have voted to ratify new collective agreements for HSPBA, CBA, and now the CSSEA contract, where members ratified their new collective agreement last month. On the Nurses Bargaining Association front, the ratification vote will be complete by the end of this month.
With representing HSA members’ interests in four major collective agreements for the past several months, , we’ve had our hands full with bargaining meetings, providing news updates to members, producing tentative agreement information packages, telephone town halls, and in-person meetings and electronic ratification votes, all while the work of the union continued on many fronts.
The work of lobbying government to protect and fund the public health care and socials services systems and address the shortages that are having such a significant impact on the people who deliver those services did not let up while bargaining was going on. HSA continues to work with various ministries to ensure that issues are brought to their attention, and to propose solutions to address those issues. Data provided through our discussions with the Ministry of Health helped guide the Health Human Resources strategy released in Fall 2022, as well as the new Provincial Health Human Resources Coordination Committee (PHHRCC).
But our health care system also relies on the federal government. That is why HSA participated in the Canadian Labour Congress’ (CLC) annual lobby day in Ottawa in February. Members of HSA joined with over 400 members from unions across the country to have one-on-one conversations with MPs about the Care Economy, a Just Transition and Anti-Scab legislation. HSA members emphasized the issues of recruitment and retention, and the battle against privatization. It was no coincidence that the provincial health ministers were also in Ottawa at that day, negotiating funding to support the delivery of health care across the country.
At the end of March, I will also participate in a lobby in Ottawa organized by the Canadian Health Coalition (CHC), with the specific goals being to lobby for a universal Pharmacare program, public dental care, safe long-term care, and investments to support frontline health care workers. Labour representatives from across the province will also be pushing back against increased privatization, for-profit clinics, and a two-tiered system that results in unequal access to care.
Supporting Child Development Centres
HSA members at Child Development Centres (CDCs) across the province provide critical services and therapies for children with special needs to help them be the best that they can be. In January, our members at Starbright CDC faced losing their jobs when the government awarded a contract for a Family Connection Centre to a private, for-profit company with no history in the community, and threatened Starbright CDC, which has provided specialized care in the community for 60 years, with closure. I worked with HSA members, including our Constituency Liaisons, parents, and families to push the government to reconsider its decision. In early February, Starbright CDC was given a 2-year extension to provide services to the community. But we must continue to work to ensure our MLAs and the Ministry of Children and Family Development understand the impact of shifting to for-profit delivery of services has on the care community. Hearing from our members who work at CDCs gave me a real appreciation for how much HSA members care about these very special children and the importance of providing care in a multi-disciplinary setting. I have met with government cabinet ministers and warned them that short-sighted reforms to delivery of services provided by the team of professionals in child development centres are reminiscent of the reforms in the long-term care sector. That sector still faces underfunding and significant wait lists, and it is critical that we not see the same mistakes made in the child development sector.
We are developing a campaign and engaging our members in the sector, as well as our Constituency Liaisons, to make sure government hears that message loud and clear.
BC Federation of Labour Convention
November 2022 saw the return to an in-person BC Federation of Labour. At this biennial convention, delegates debated several resolutions including many brought forward from HSA conventions, and elected Sussanne Skidmore, the Federation’s first openly queer president, and Hermender Singh Kailley as secretary-treasurer. With Sussanne, Hermender, and previously under President Laird Cronk, the labour movement has seen levels of unity and solidarity as a new generation of leaders come together.
HSA has benefitted from the work of the BC Federation of Labour, from coordinated public sector bargaining, to the paid sick leave campaign and WCB reform. I aim to make sure HSA has a strong voice and leadership in the labour movement in BC, and pledge to give our members more opportunities to participate in the province’s labour movement through the work of the BC Federation of Labour.
Work of the Board of Directors
Following the BC Fed Convention, our year-end Board meeting was pushed back to December. We had a full agenda including welcoming Andrew Duarte as the interim Director for Region 1, approving the new Terms of Reference for the Racial Justice Committee, reviewing the new cabinet ministers appointed by our new premier David Eby and presenting and discussing the 2023 HSA budget. The budget is a key part of HSA’s work for the coming year and couldn’t be done with the hard work of the Finance Committee, which includes Regional Directors, representatives from the membership as MALs and staff. Through the budget process, resources are allocated to carry out the resolutions passed by you at Convention.
The Board also met in late January 2023. Highlights included planning our annual Convention, submitting resolutions on behalf of HSA’s governance committees and reviewing the HSPBA and CBA tentative agreements, and looking at the state of bargaining in our other contracts, the CSS and NBA.
2023 HSA Annual Convention
Last, but not least, the 2023 Annual HSA Convention is upon us. As the union’s annual governance event, members will come from all over the province to set the union’s policy and direction for the next year. Staff and I are busy making preparations and arrangements to create an event that will bring together our ideas and perspectives on how we can make our union stronger. I look forward to the debates and the opportunity to meet those of you elected by your chapters to represent you at the Convention. I have met so many wonderful and amazing HSA members at Convention over the many years, and although we often come from very different professions, we all share a common cause and have built friendships that lasted for years. Through many Conventions, I have learned so much about your professions and the great work you do every day.
For those of you attending Convention, see you in April! To everyone, I hope you are able to get outdoors to enjoy a sunny, warm and happy spring.