British Columbia could be facing serious labour disruptions as disgruntled teachers, healthcare and government workers announced Monday they aren't happy.
A leaked letter to doctors from the president of the B.C. Medical Association indicating doctors will get about a 19-per-cent pay hike over four years under a new tentative deal has enraged representatives of the Health Employees Union and the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union.
But the leaked letter from BCMA president Dr. Michael Golbey about the deal reached during the weekend appears to have poisoned the well for some union leaders.
In the letter, Golbey said the agreement provides for a general compensation increase of 10.4 per cent over four years plus an increase of 8.7 per cent compensation for some doctors.
"This provides an average increase of 19.1 per cent over the first four years," Golbey writes.
Later, he adds: "This agreement is important for a number of reasons. It represents an important first step in restoring a positive working relationship between B.C. physicians and the provincial government."
Golbey defended the package in an interview. He said the increase works out to a three per cent hike in the first year, two per cent for the next two years and three per cent hike in the final year. The extra 8.7 per cent is to entice doctors to enter family practice and lower-paid specialties.
"Everybody will be getting an increase, but it won't be straight across the board. It will be split up to go to those areas of most need." He also noted that B.C. doctors have not had a pay increase since 2001.
Judy Darcy, spokeswoman for the Health Employees Union, was angered by the doctors' package. "We're trying to negotiate the best deal possible, but it will not be 19 per cent like the doctors got," she said.
Talks between the government and the HEU's 38,000 workers, who include hospital cleaners and licensed practical nurses, are focusing on job security.
Darcy said she's still hopeful a tentative deal can be reached in time for the union's members to qualify for their share of the $1 billion signing bonus the government has offered civil servants if they ratify contracts before March 31.
George Heyman, president of the B.C. Government Employees Union, said he doesn't begrudge the handsome settlement offered to the province's doctors.
"But we're going to take away from other workers to give to doctors. It's short changing everyone else."
The BCGEU voted 80 per cent in favour of a strike earlier this month and warned the government would face a labour disruption if there was no collective agreement by this past weekend.
Finance Minister Carole Taylor said she was disappointed the union has walked away from negotiations, but she said hopes it's only a "speed bump, slows us down but doesn't stop us.
George Heyman might not "begrudge" a NINETEEN PER CENT INCREASE for the doctors, but if I was an HEU member, I sure as hell would, after the screwing-over the HEU got last year.
Gee, I *wonder* what Carole James would counsel...? Come to think of it, who cares?
[edited to remove excess info. that wasn't necessary]