Unions representing 60,000 hospital and long-term care workers in British Columbia have reached a tentative agreement with the Hospital Employers Association of B.C. after 65 days of contract negotiations.
A statement from the Hospital Employees' Union, representing most of the staff, said the three-year deal reached late Thursday includes "significant compensation improvements" and "measures to tackle serious staffing shortages and worker burnout."
It also includes "major new investments" in training and education and a commitment to hire thousands of new workers, the union said.
Meena Brisard, the lead negotiator for the nine-union Facilities Bargaining Association, said protecting members' earnings against rising living costs had been a priority during the talks that began in February.
"Like all workers in British Columbia, our health-care workers are struggling to keep a roof over their heads in the most expensive housing market in the country," she said in an interview on Friday.
Reaching a good contract for health-care workers also supports a better health-care system for everyone, Brisard said.
An internal survey found one in three union members were considering leaving the health-care sector in the next two years because of stress and burnout, she said.
"We all know we had a staffing crisis before the global pandemic, but each new wave of COVID-19 pushes health-care workers closer to the brink," she said.
"We were able to secure agreement around workload, around health and safety and around recruitment and retention," she said of the contract negotiations.
Other provisions give workers a greater voice when it comes to changes to shifts and rotations.
The Ministry of Finance released a statement saying the negotiations support the government's key priorities to improve public services and the health-care system, as well as its commitment to "continued economic recovery for all."
Details of the agreement will be made available in the coming weeks, when the ratification process for the union members and employers is complete, it said.
The Hospital Employees' Union said its provincial executive would review the terms of the tentative deal next week and full details would be provided to members before they decide whether to accept it in a vote that has yet to be scheduled.
It would take weeks to ratify the agreement because it involves more than 60,000 workers across the province, Brisard said.
The Hospital Employees' Union represents more than 90 per cent of employees covered by the deal across a range of jobs in hospitals, care homes, clinics, corporate offices and supply warehouses, working directly with patients as well as in support services.
The tentative agreement has provisions promoting greater inclusion and equity in health care, including measures to strengthen "progress toward reconciliation and culturally safe health-care delivery," the union's statement said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 2, 2022.
The Canadian Press