The time has finally come.
I and some 450 other BCNU delegates met in Vancouver Oct. 4 and 5 for the union’s provincial bargaining conference. It was an inspiring and energizing gathering, and I’m happy to report that we are now in a position to begin negotiating a new Nurses’ Bargaining Association (NBA) collective agreement.
I know many members have been waiting for this moment, but the process that got us here has been just as important as formal contract talks. It started with member-wide polling last year and continued with telephone town halls, regional bargaining conferences and a province-wide outreach and engagement effort that ran through this fall. Our bargaining conference was the first province-wide in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and I was thrilled to see so many activists gathered together again in one place.
We channeled our collective energy with a march through downtown Vancouver, where we closed down the intersection of Burrard and West Georgia streets, one of the busiest in the city.
We were loud and we were proud, and the cheers of support we received from pedestrians, cyclists and drivers was truly humbling. It was exhilarating to see so many people honking their horns, clapping, or shouting their praises for the invaluable work nurses do.
The media was also on hand to capture the action and help us take our message to the people of BC. I provided a firsthand account of just how bad BC’s health-care crisis truly is. I spoke of the unrelenting demands placed on nurses at worksites around the province amid a worsening staffing shortage, ER closures and growing patient acuity. I said the impact on our members’ psychological health and safety is all too real, and nurses are struggling to keep their heads above water through a COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing toxic drug crisis.
And I also said that nurses marching in the street sends a clear sign to the provincial government that we mean business, and we’re ready to bargain a new NBA collective agreement that recognizes and reflects nurses’ true value.
Congratulations to those conference delegates elected to serve on our Provincial Bargaining and Job Action committees. And many thanks to all who were nominated to run for positions. We look forward to your continued advocacy as we amp up our activism during bargaining.
Your BCNU council and I travelled to Victoria this month to meet with MLAs from all parties. It was another opportunity for me to speak directly to legislators and policy makers on your behalf. I had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Premier Horgan and also met with Leader of the Opposition Kevin Falcon and the opposition’s health critic Shirley Bond.
I told them the government needs to do whatever it takes to retain the nurses we have, and the fact that we have a nursing school waitlist during a nurse staffing crisis just doesn’t make sense. We need more seats in nursing schools and more support for internationally educated nurses who are ready to work in BC.
Convention 2022 is right around the corner. Members will be joining together in solidarity from Nov. 2 to 4 and we’ll be out in the streets again, loud and proud, to tell the people of the province that nurses are demanding better working conditions and wages, that we are done being disrespected by health employers, and we expect to be valued as the educated professionals we are.
Together, we can achieve many things, and we need each and every member to be present and participate if we call a strike vote, engage in job action or negotiate a tentative agreement requiring a ratification vote. In the meantime, it’s time for you to be loud and be proud. Talk to your steward, and become informed and empowered with NU Connections, our series of online learning resources to help you become an active part of the collective bargaining process.
Aman GrewalPresident, BC Nurses' Union
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