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Stanford Place strike to be averted, say both sides

The front-line employees of Stanford Place in Parksville have given their bargaining committee an 84 per cent strike mandate, but both sides think a strike will be avoided.

Hospital Employees’ Union negotiator David Durning said they have settled 90 per cent of the issues and are down to the monetary details in negotiating their first collective agreement since the union was certified last spring.

Union members want the Ahmon Group, the facility owners, to withdraw their demand for a second round of wage rollbacks.

The roughly 225 employees include dietary and housekeeping workers, licensed practical and registered nurses and care aides who Durning said would be hit the hardest by the employer’s proposed 20 per cent roll back in combined wages and benefits.

Staff received a five per cent roll back in January 2010 before the HEU was certified and they were told that once the facility was in the black, their wages and benefits would be restored.

“Within little more than two years, the Ahmon Group has reneged on that agreement not once, but twice, with no regard for the impact on their workers or the seniors in their care.

“This employer is creating an untenable situation where some staff will be forced to leave their jobs and others will be left to cope with a high stress, low morale working environment, all of which impacts the continuity and quality of care,” Durning said.

He said more than half live outside the Parksville area.

“A lot came from other facilities to work here at the same rate, and now they work for less,” he said suggesting some are already talking about finding jobs back in their home communities, taking their skills and experience with them.

“We understand the funding is frozen, so we want to maintain the status quo,” Durning said calling for wages to be raised back to where they started.

Sue Aberman, director of Stanford Place, said the roll back is the worst case scenario based on 21 of their 41 market pay beds still being empty and the ongoing cost pressures of the current economy.

“A strike vote is upsetting to everyone,” she said, “but there will be no strike.”

Both sides say they are waiting for the other to come back to the table with a revised proposal and they will keep working through the process.

In the meantime, the union will enter discussions with the Ahmon Group to establish essential services levels to protect residents in the event of job action.

An essential services order is required for the union to be in a strike position.

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