Health care workers demanding increase 

Health care workers at the Whistler Health Care Centre are asking their boss to pay up.

The non-unionized workers in Whistler have asked the Sea to Sky Community Health Council (CHC) to increase their wages, making them the same as unionized workers, despite a health ministry directive to the contrary.

"We feel it is very unfair that there is a wage inequity in the corridor and for us it makes a big difference," said Anne Fenwick, a registered nurse at the centre.

The workers have asked the board to pay them the wage increases, including retroactive increases, until the end of the year.

Fenwick said the board has been told by the ministry not to engage in long-term contracts. She said the health care workers’ current demands are not long-term and therefore the CHC should pay "their debts" to their employees until the end of December. They have asked for a response from the board by Friday.

"Because there is so much unrest in the labour industry, we feel that we're going to get lost in the big picture," she said.

Prior to this demand, about 25 health care workers showed up to voice their concerns and grievances with the CHC at a recent open board meeting. They did not like what they heard.

They were told that the ministry had issued a directive to the CHC board stating there could be no wage increases for non-unionized workers until first approved by the ministry. Essentially the board said their hands were tied.

"We have a mandate from the Ministry of Health. We are not in a position to approve the increases without it having gone through the recognized provincial process," said Fran Cuthbert, chair of the CHC.

Before the ministry can approve wage increases for non-unionized health care workers, the proposal must first be approved by the Health Employers' Association of B.C. (HEABC), as well as the Public Service Employers' Council (PSEC).

Cuthbert said the board cannot circumvent this process.

"The board is bound by this process," said Cuthbert. "... It just takes a long time. It's frustrating for everyone concerned but those are the rules of the game," she said.

The board's message came as a surprise to some of the workers.

"I thought we would come out of (the meeting) with them saying the next pay cheque would have the increases on it," said Fenwick.

Fenwick said the ministry's directive came as the Whistler workers head into a very stressful time of year.

During the winter season, Fenwick said up to 140 people go through the Whistler Health Care Centre every day, including some major traumas.

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