BC Nurses gather for rally in Vancouver (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)

New contract would force B.C. health authorities to hire new nurses or pay millions

Contract would hit budgets of hospitals operating without full contingent of nurses

B.C. health officials will have 100 million new reasons to hire more nurses if a new contract is ratified later this month.

Under the terms of the tentative contract, which will be voted on by union members later this month, nurses would get a premium for working in understaffed units.

The union is hoping the premium will spur the hiring of new nurses because, if staffing doesn’t meet baseline levels, the extra pay could leave officials with a combined $100 million gap in their budgets.

Those and other previously unreported details were disclosed in a special issue of the BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU) in-house magazine sent out to members. The BCNU declined to comment about the proposed contract, saying they would prefer to communicate directly with members.

The premium could be particularly relevant to nurses at hospitals like Abbotsford Regional Hospital, where Fraser Health spent more than $1 million in the 2017/18 fiscal year to fly in out-of-region nurses to adequately staff the emergency room. Although the hospital neared its full contingent of staffing last March, overtime rates at the hospital remain well above Fraser Health’s target. About five per cent of all hours paid to ARH staff between April and July of last year were overtime – one of the highest rates in the region. There are also 22 current job postings for nursing positions at ARH, with most being for casual, on-call employment.

The proposed contract would mean that, on short-staffed units, each nurse working would receive up to $5/hour extra. (Those working on larger units would receive a $3/hour premium.) The cost would be a significant incentive to hire more staff, the union’s magazine says: “Managers will not have money in their budgets to pay nurses this premium, creating a powerful incentive to staff appropriately in order to avoid shouldering the cost.”

The union magazine says “safe staffing” is the top priority for nurses and that the proposed agreement creates “a new direct patient care staffing assessment process.” The premium, the magazine says, will add a financial incentive to the equation.

The premium won’t kick in right away, though. Health authorities will have until April 1, 2020, to hire enough nurses to meet the baseline staffing requirements.

The contract also includes annual wage increases of two per cent over the next three years.

The nurses’ current contract is set to expire at the end of March.

In addition to nurses working in hospitals, the contract will also cover those employed in public health, home support and mental health facilities.

This story has been updated to reflect that nurses would receive a $5/hour premium on small units and a $3/hour premium on larger units. It originally incorrectly stated nurses would receive an $8/hour premium for larger units and a $3/hour premium on smaller units.

RELATED: ARH ER nurse vacancies filled after more than $1 million spent on out-of-town workers

RELATED: Tentative deal reached for 44,000 nurses across B.C.

LETTER: ER at Abbotsford Regional Hospital bursting at the seams


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Stellar Haze offers up ‘organic rock’ at Memorial Park

Trio hitting the stage for their first live performance this Friday

RCMP, ERT attending incident at Cheam First Nation

Few details are available about the incident, which saw more than a dozen police cars attend

Chiefs kick off exhibition pre-season stint at Hope Arena

Catch the Chilliwack Chiefs on the ice as they prepare for fresh season

Annual Peters family ball tournament draws a dozen teams to Hope ball diamonds

Recently upgraded field at the Schkam reserve the backdrop for this year’s event

Kent quarry opposition receives federal support

Green Party leader Elizabeth May wrote to the provincial government to oppose the quarry application

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Conan turns to the Property Brothers for tips on buying Greenland

Jonathan Scott suggests removing glaciers and mountains to bring in ‘more natural light’

Forests minister visits B.C. town rocked by multiple mill shutdowns

A third of Mackenzie turns out for rally, not much to cheer about

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

North Van music teacher accused of sexual misconduct involving girls

Police believe other victims could be out there after the arrest of Lamar Victor Alviar

B.C. family stranded in Croatia desperate to come home

Funds being raised to bring back mom and two children

B.C. man on trial for daughters’ murders says an intruder broke in

Andrew Berry takes stand in his defense for December 2017 deaths of young daughters

‘Plenty of time for a deal’: Teachers’ union expects kids back in school on Sept. 3

BCTF says class size, composition at the heart of the issue

Most Read