Community health workers in B.C. are celebrating Wednesday after ratifying a new collective agreement.
The historic agreement affects more than 3,000 members of the UFCW 1518 community health sector, who provide home care to vulnerable people across the province.
The agreement is touted as a way to bring needed stability into the sector. It covers community health care workers in eight different unions, including UFCW 1518. Collectively, they make up the Community Bargaining Association (CBA), whose work at the bargaining table has yielded some of the highest wage increases that community health workers have ever received in the association’s history, according to a union press release.
The agreement includes an average of 14 to 16 per cent wage increase for all members over three years, as well as improved premiums for weekends and evenings and guaranteed-hours positions.
According to the B.C. government, the agreement covers about 21,700 health care support workers employed in a variety of community settings, including private homes, group homes, residential community living homes, supported employment programs, child development centres, adult day programs, mental-health centres, community service agencies and health authorities throughout B.C.
UFCW 1518 secretary-treasurer Patrick Johnson said it’s about time an agreement and resulting wage increases were achieved.
“Our members and other community health workers are finally getting the respect and recognition they need and deserve. These significant wage increases are overdue and were desperately needed for these folks who work every day to keep our health care system afloat,” Johnson said.
Over 94 per cent of CBA members voted to ratify the three-year collective agreement with the Health Employers Association of British Columbia. According to the press release, the new agreement will help bridge the gap that’s been widening between workers and their counterparts in facilities.
“Our members’ jobs are physically and mentally draining enough without the added worry that their benefits could be in danger,” said Johnson. “With this deal, they don’t have to worry—their benefits are secure.”
The release says much of the stress community health care workers face stems from chronic understaffing and intense workloads, and the new agreement seeks to resolve this by prioritizing the retention and recruitment of talent.
From addressing “crushing” workloads to protections against workplace violence, the release says the new contract will make community health and home support jobs more attractive, respectful and safe. Johnson says this is good news for all parts of the public care system.
“By doing consistent house visits and providing mobility exercises, home care workers like our members prevent overcrowding in emergency rooms and continuing-care centres,” said Johnson, “Their jobs are critical, so when they have the resources that they need to provide quality support and when we have a robust community care system in place, everyone benefits.”