Give Whistler health care workers their raise

At a time when the health care system is crying out for more money, and the provincial government is desperately short of money, there’s one health care centre in B.C. that makes a substantial profit – to the benefit of the provincial health care system. It’s here in Whistler.

With all the out of province and international visitors who require treatment in the Whistler Health Care Centre, and have to pay for their care, the Whistler Health Care Centre brings in substantially more than it costs to run. That profit is spread throughout the Sea to Sky Health area, enhancing service at the Squamish Hospital and the Pemberton Health Care Centre.

It’s not as if this money isn’t earned. At times the Whistler Health Care Centre can look like a M*A*S*H unit, except of course there is no surgery performed at the Whistler clinic, but that’s another story. The point is, Whistler health care workers work extremely hard, and with the nature of injuries and illnesses that occur in the mountains, at times face tremendous pressures. They have received praise and thank you cards from patients around the world who received first class treatment at the centre.

But staff at the Whistler Health Care Centre are getting second class treatment from the medical bureaucracy. When the provincial government reached a new contract with health care workers earlier this year it included raises for all unionized health care staff, which is the vast majority of health care workers across B.C. Staff at the Whistler Health Care Centre are an exception. They aren’t unionized, but they have always received the same wages and benefits as unionized health care workers. Until now.

Whistler health care staff are still being paid under terms of the old contract, even though unionized health care workers, including those in Squamish and Pemberton, are getting a higher wage under terms of last summer’s settlement.

Health officials say Whistler nurses will eventually get their raise and be paid according to the new contract, it’s just that because they aren’t part of the union the health ministry hasn’t approved their wage increase yet.

It’s not the first time Whistler has been left in the lurch because square pegs don’t fit into the round holes created by government bureaucracy. Take, for example, any provincial program that’s based on a per capita formula.

But ignoring for the moment the blunt instruments of government policy wielded in Victoria, Whistler health care staff should be paid the same as unionized health care workers because it’s simply the right thing to do.

Unlike most of the other problems facing the provincial government, this one doesn’t have a significant impact on finances. It will cost the province a little bit more to pay the handful of Whistler health care workers a fair wage, but in reaching a province-wide agreement with health care workers earlier this summer, it was a cost the government anticipated.

The Campbell government doesn’t need any more battles with labour. This is one it can avoid; just pay the nurses what they were promised.

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