December 1, 2016 8:52 pm
Updated: December 1, 2016 9:22 pm

Seniors facility staff rally in Salmon Arm

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Staff at six B.C. seniors facilities, including locations in the Okanagan and Shuswap, have voted in favor of strike action.

So far that type of job action remains only a threat. Their union, the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU), is still focused on reaching a settlement at the bargaining table.

On Thursday workers held a rally in Salmon Arm aimed at putting pressure on their employer, The Good Samaritan Society, ahead of upcoming talks.

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The workers’ previous contract expired at the end of March and so far the two sides haven’t been able to reach a deal.

The union complains that staff are leaving for higher paying jobs elsewhere and the society is either taking a long time to replace departing workers or not filling their positions at all.

“We are looking for a wage increase so we are closer to what the hospital gets and therefore we don’t keep losing staff to the hospital,” said HEU negotiator Debbie Kamal Ali.

In a statement The Good Samaritan Society said it remains committed to bargaining in good faith. The society, a registered charity, wouldn’t comment on the specific issues raised by the union saying it won’t bargain through the media.

The two sides are headed back to the negotiating table on Dec. 12. The union says it hopes a new collective agreement can be reached on that date.

The nearly 700 staff members impacted by the talks work at Heron Grove in Vernon, Hillside Village and Pioneer Lodge in Salmon Arm, Village by the Station in Penticton, Victoria Heights in New Westminster and Christenson Village in Gibsons.

Mountain View Village in Kelowna is also operated by The Good Samaritan Society but workers there are not part of these negotiations.

If staff did take strike action, they would still be required to maintain essential service levels.

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