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BC Nurses’ Union ratifies contract including ‘working short premium’

Peterborough Public Health nurses could face job action at the end of November.
Peterborough Public Health nurses could face job action at the end of November. Global News file

A three-year provincial agreement has been reached between the BC Nurses’ Union and the Health Employers Association of British Columbia.

Only 54 per cent of nurses voted to ratify the three-year deal that was reached in November.

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BC Nurses’ Union President Christine Sorensen said the marginal vote says a lot.

“I think that sends a strong message that the nurses are skeptical that the government and the health employers will provide the safe staffing that is required,” said Sorensen.

One of the big things in the deal is what’s being called a “working short premium,” which the health authority will be required to pay in certain circumstances.

“When additional nurses are working below safe staffing levels or when the workload is such that additional nurses should have been called in to meet the patients’ needs,” Sorensen explained.

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“We believe that the health authorities will not want to be paying those premiums, or a penalty, shall we say, so they will be seeking to find more nursing staff to ensure that safe staffing levels are provided at all times,” said Sorensen.

Sorensen said parts of the agreement won’t come into place for a year to allow the health authority to find the extra nursing staff they need.

She said the agreement will advance the profession of nursing, with things like increases to compensation, addressing workload and protecting nurses’ pension and benefits.

According to the province, the deal also includes a 2 per cent annual wage increase.