Union 'shocked' by IHA's lack of consultation

Kamloops Daily News

Daily News Staff Reporter

The union representing lab services technicians is upset the Interior Health Authority has violated their collective agreement when the ink has barely dried.

But an official with the IHA insisted Tuesday the health authority did consult the Health Sciences Association in accordance with the union contract.

HSA president Reid Johnson said that IHA contacted his members in the region last week informing them a major reorganization is planned and their jobs might be affected.

"This was a complete shock to us," Johnson said. "This runs completely contrary to the consultation agreed to in our collective agreement."

That contract with IHA was reluctantly ratified in the spring by union members since it contained no wage increases. A joint negotiating committee agreed to a saving grace, however: guaranteed consultation should there be any changes affecting employees or services to patients.

"We're not talking about union veto," said Johnson, who noted that the union has been around for 40 years. Its members are second only to physicians in terms of their education and training credentials, he noted. "We are problem solvers; that's what we're there for. We're part of the solution."

The IHA move also contravenes an agreement reached under Bill 29 in 2008, which states that health authorities must meet at least twice a year with the union to consult on changes affecting members. There has been no such meeting in the past year.

There are about 750 lab staff within the IHA, of which 450 are HSA members. The changes are expected to affect about 60 current positions in the region. IHA expects no net job loss.

Mel Griffin, IHA regional director of lab services, said the moves followed the collective agreement.

"We are initiating the consultation process," Griffin said. "We did that last week by contacting the union • concurrent with that we contacted the employees. We are following what we believe to be the terms of the collective agreement."

Griffin said the reorganization of lab services will involve changes to the supervisory system, but the public won't be affected.

"There will be no impact at all of services in Kamloops or any other community affected," he said. "We believe the changes will improve our ability to deliver quality services to patients."

The changes are scheduled to take effect in June 2012.

Allegations made by the union in a website bulletin are untrue, he added.

The union maintains IHA is not telling the truth.

"They contacted us five minutes before," Johnson said. "Excuse my unparliamentary language, but that's bullshit. There was no consultation, no prior notice. If I was their staff, I'd be embarrassed."

He said he could only speculate on the reasons for a contract violation that makes no sense.

"It's taking a while for health authorities to realize that it's not top-down authority anymore, but other health authorities have taken a different approach."