B.C. braces for health workers strike

CBC News Online, Thursday 19 July 2001, 17:41:41

VANCOUVER—Fourteen thousand health-care workers in British Columbia are planning to walk off the job Monday morning in an illegal strike.

The pharmacists and lab technologists were legislated back to the negotiating table by the B.C. government last month. But union leaders say attempts to reach a new collective agreement have been futile.

The already poisoned atmosphere of contract talks between the new Liberal government and health-care workers hit a new low on Thursday.

Cindy Stewart, who represents the 14,000 hospital pharmacists and lab technicians, has demanded an eight per cent wage hike in each of the next three years for her members. The government has countered with an offer roughly half that.

We have been left with no choice to show that our members don't accept a wage offer that singles out some members for higher increases than others, she said.

Finance Minister Gary Collins, who has also dismissed what he claims are excessive wage demands from B.C. nurses says it's time health care unions got a dose of reality.

I think what we're facing here in British Columbia is really high expectations, really well beyond the capacity of our health-care system to pay for it, said Collins.

Union members could be hit with heavy fines if they follow through with their walkout Monday morning, a move that would create more disruptions for patients, and yet another showdown between the new Liberal government and B.C.'s health care unions.