B.C. nurses vote on 3% wage hike and longer hours

B.C. nurses will get a three per cent wage hike but will work slightly longer hours to allow the hiring of more staff under the terms of a tentative contract with the provincial government.
B.C.'s nurses will vote on a new contract offering a three per cent wage hike and slightly longer hours. (CBC)

B.C. nurses are voting on a new contract offering a three per cent wage hike and slightly longer hours, which will allow the hiring of more staff.

The B.C. Nurses' Union released details Tuesday of the two-year agreement reached with the provincial government last week, saying the wage hike will take effect April 1 and the deal will add 2,125 more full-time equivalencies to the health system by 2016.

About 300 union executives endorsed the agreement in Vancouver Tuesday, and it now goes to 32,000 union members for a ratification vote Oct. 18.

The details come just days after the province and the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union announced a separate tentative agreement covering some 26,000 workers.

"This is a very good deal in tough economic times," said Debra McPherson, president of the B.C. Nurses Union, in a statement.

"We will have clear, enforceable language that recognizes the clinical judgment of nurses to know what's best for patients."

McPherson said the deal was reached despite the government's insistence there was no new funding for public-sector contracts and arguments that any contract gains must be funded from changes to collective agreements.

The union said the extra hiring will be achieved by increasing nurses' work hours from 36 hours a week to 37.5 hours a week effective April 1.

The deal includes provisions that will require extra nurses to be called in when needed, such as when hospital wards exceed their capacity.

Late last week, the BCGEU, which represents workers in healthcare, public safety, social services, education, environmental management, released details of its tentative contract agreement with the provincial government.

That deal gives members a four-per-cent wage increase over two years and backs away from any plans the government may have had to sell Liquor Distribution Branch warehouses or privatize the service.

Union members will be voting to ratify that deal over the coming weeks.