B.C. Nurses' Union president Gayle Duteil speaks to a rally at the B.C. legislature

B.C. nurses to vote on five-year agreement

Two years of talks finally settle dispute over staffing levels for 45,000 nurses

More than two years after their last contract expired, unions representing 45,000 B.C. nurses have reached a tentative settlement for a five-year agreement.

B.C. Nurses’ Union president Gayle Duteil said Tuesday that while terms are confidential until members vote on the agreement, it includes improved pay, benefits and working conditions.

“It addresses major issues of staffing and workload that directly impact the safety of patient care,” Duteil said. “That’s a key factor for us, because for a long time now, we’ve been speaking out about shortages and the failure to replace and educate the necessary nurses as needed.”

Staffing levels have been the key issue in the lengthy negotiations, which produced an interim deal in May 2015 to settle 1,600 union grievances filed over staff vacancies. That included $5 million for specialty training and a $2 million “grievance settlement fund” to pay bonuses to nurses who worked short-handed.

Nurses are the last major provincial employee group to settle under the B.C. government’s “economic stability mandate,” which provides a share of economic growth that exceeds independent forecasts.

Registered, psychiatric and licensed practical nurses represented by the BCNU, the Health Sciences Association and the Hospital Employees’ Union will vote on the agreement in the next few weeks.