In an overwhelming show of solidarity, 96 per cent of healthcare workers in the province have voted in favour of strike action.
The vote was made up of members from 11 unions that form the Facilities Bargaining Association (FBA), the 47,000 workers are in hospitals, residential care facilities, emergency health services, and logistics and supply operations.
FBA spokesperson Bonnie Pearson points out that talks broke off in late March, and they’ve been working without an agreement for the past month.
“We started bargaining in January and talks have gone very slowly and there are a number of issues between us, but I think the principal ones are employment security, ensuring the benefit plans are protected, making sure we work in safe and healthy working environments and we have a number of issues around expanding the role of paramedics,” says Pearson.
She adds that it’s difficult to say how close the two sides are at this point, or how far away. They will need another bargaining session before that can be answered.
“We were apart on a number of key issues,” says Pearson, who adds they did not break off talks, but instead chose to get advice from its members.
“But we’ve also said to health employers and government we’re willing to come to the bargaining table at any time. I don’t think that the issues are insurmountable, but it remains a very complex table.”
There is no threat of strike action at this time, but Pearson says they will make a decision on what their next step will be, if this doesn’t result in a new round of bargaining.
Pearson says their objective all along has been to negotiate a collective agreement and she is still cautiously optimistic that can be achieved.
It is unknown when both sides will again return to the bargaining table.