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Westbank First Nation staves off Pine Acres lockout

Staffing will remain at normal levels in Pine Acres Home for seniors as the union representing its staff and the Westbank First Nation head to mediation over a contract dispute, staving off a Monday morning lockout.

The facility is run by the WFN, which issued a lockout notice last week that would have seen the 77 employees barred from entering the home on Monday.

BC Government and Services Employees' Union communication spokesperson Holly Reid said the notice was withdrawn after the WFN agreed to go to mediation early Saturday and a date has been set to start meeting this Thursday, June 28 with an eye to finding an amenable resolution for everyone involved.

"Many of the employees at Pine Acres—working as Licensed Practical Nurses, care aides, activity aides, laundry, housekeeping and kitchen staff—have worked at the facility for decades and 23 employees are also First Nations," a BCGEU statement release mid-Monday said.

The BC Labour Relations Board has appointed mediator Grant McArthur and a strike is prohibited until mediation has ended.

The WFN was seeking concessions from the workers including a $4 an hour wage cut, large reductions to vacation time, sick time, cuts to benefits and the elimination of a pension for new hires.

"The employer’s proposal would impose a two-tier agreement,” BCGEU President Darryl Walker said. “This would result in two very different working conditions and wages within the bargaining unit. This is just another example of a private healthcare employer attempting to drive down wages for our members."

Pine Acres, an intermediate care facility, is home to 63 seniors and elders.

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