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More B.C. unions back 'growth sharing' with government's 5-year deals

Government union member attends protest rally in support of striking teachers, March 2012. Finance Minister Mike de Jong says long-term agreements show teachers and other unions that stability can be negotiated. - Black Press files
Government union member attends protest rally in support of striking teachers, March 2012. Finance Minister Mike de Jong says long-term agreements show teachers and other unions that stability can be negotiated.
— image credit: Black Press files

VICTORIA – More unions have recommended acceptance of the B.C. government's offer five-year agreements with extra wage increases tied to economic growth.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced three tentative deals Tuesday, with B.C. Government Employees' Union and other unions representing 51,000 people in community social services. Combined with members of the Health Sciences Association, whose negotiators endorsed a five-year deal last week, a quarter of B.C. public sector employees are being asked by their unions to vote yes.

The agreements include guaranteed wage increases of about 5.5 per cent over five years, plus extra money in years where the B.C. economy grows beyond independent forecasts.

The latest deal covers direct government employees, home support workers, alcohol and drug counsellors, adult day centres, child development centres and mental health group homes.

De Jong said the "growth sharing" concept is a first for B.C., and five years is unusually long for provincial government deals. Another first is to have substantial settlements four months before the existing contracts expire.

"I think they do signal a strong working relationship and one that is evolving in very positive ways," de Jong said.

BCGEU, which represents some of the community health workers, said the latest agreement also includes wage adjustments for some job categories. Other improvements include mileage and meal allowances equal to its public service agreement and removal of a pre-existing condition restriction for long-term disability.

The growth sharing formula is based on the finance ministry's economic forecast council, private sector experts who estimate growth in January as the provincial budget is being prepared. If actual growth exceeds projected growth, it means $200 million more for the provincial treasury, which would be shared 50-50 with unionized employees for that year.

De Jong said if the formula had been in place for the last 12 years, there would have been extra money in six of them.

 

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