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Wages in B.C. falling behind other provinces, health professionals union says

Dec 07 2012
Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid: Very disappointed about strike, but hopes deal can be made. 

Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid: Very disappointed about strike, but hopes deal can be made.

Photograph by: Darren Stone, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

Hospital professional staff undertaking rotating strikes across B.C. are paid less than counterparts in other provinces, union figures show.

Some professional hospital employees could earn as much as $10 more an hour in Alberta, said dietitian Bill Hadden, co-chief union steward at Victoria General Hospital for the Health Sciences Association of B.C.

"We're losing a lot of our younger members," he said.

The association is the lead union in the bargaining group representing more than 16,000 health science professionals providing clinical, diagnostic and rehabilitation services in hospitals and communities.

Medical imaging staff are operating at essential services levels today, causing cancellation of 518 procedures and 20 operating room procedures on the Island.

Public health inspectors, who carry out restaurant inspections as well as scrutinizing water systems and swimming pools, are also taking part in today's job action. About 45 Vancouver Island Health Authority inspectors, who do up to six inspections in an average day, will be affected.

The workers, including pharmacists, radiation technologists and laboratory staff, have not had a raise since 2009.

According to figures provided by the union, B.C. hospital pharmacists' pay of $47.36 per hour is ranked sixth in Canada at $5.54 per hour less than Alberta and $3.41 less than P.E.I., the provinces with the top pay.

B.C. dietitians are ranked seventh in Canada at $35.10 per hour, $10.38 less than Alberta and $3.81 less than Ontario.

Perfusionists who operate heart-lung machines during surgery are ranked fourth out of six provinces surveyed at $43.05 per hour - $9.51 less than Alberta and $2.27 less than Saskatchewan.

Asked if B.C. is losing professionals to other provinces, Michael March-bank, president of the Health Employers Association of B.C., replied: "We want to offer a competitive package to them. We hope we can come to an agreement that does that."

The employers association has been successful in getting deals with three other health bargaining units - nurses, facilities personnel and medical residents - and hopes it can come to an agreement now, Marchbank said.

He would not give any details about the negotiations.

Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid told the Times Colonist she was "very concerned about the strike and disappointed it is impacting on patients. I am very hopeful the parties will be able to get back to the table."

Mediator Vince Ready was called in Tuesday.

MacDiarmid said it's not easy to negotiate under the co-operative gains mandate of the province, which allows wage increases only if savings can be found elsewhere in a contract, but the government has to stick to it.

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