BCNU President Christine Sorensen welcomed close to 500 nursing delegates from across the province on day one of the union's annual convention, and opened by thanking nurse leaders for their continued commitment to building a future based on trust, transparency, integrity and excellence.
She also took a minute to explain why the theme of this year's convention, 'The Power to Lead,' is of particular significance to her.
"Leadership is about the wise use of power. It is about service. And there is power in giving service to others, to help people, to inspire people and motivate them to reach their fullest potential," she said. "In this role, I am often asked what it means to be the leader of the BCNU, the most powerful health-care union in BC. And I usually respond by saying I am only one and there are many leaders within the BCNU."
The BCNU President spoke of her gratitude for the support she has received from members, Council and staff over the last few years, and credited the collective efforts of leaders past and present for being responsible for an impressive history of achievements, many of which she highlighted in her address.
"There are many hard-won achievements that have significant meaning for us today. There are the headlines, like from 1951 when RNs' top monthly wage was increased to $218. In 2011, BCNU stood strong and won at the Supreme Court of Canada on safe injection sites," she said. "And then in the last few years, BCNU has negotiated expanded paternity leave, safe staffing language, and standards for psychological health and safety while securing millions of dollars in damages to compensate for the employers' failure to follow the collective agreement."
"It is because of the collective efforts of all of these great leaders that we have the potential to create the change that's needed in health-care."
Sorensen took the opportunity to inform the room about the respectful, open and honest dialogue that was front and center throughout the recent bargaining process, where a new collective agreement was negotiated, ahead of schedule. It's an agreement she described as 'innovative' and 'nurse-driven.'
"The Nurses' Bargaining Association focused on problem solving and collaboration to resolve shared workload and staffing issues and to help solve complex issues that impacted our workforce and our lives. We had a long list of concerns that needed to change and we were committed to finding solutions within the time and funding available to us," she reported.
"We challenged ourselves and the employer to be innovative and to think outside the box."
But Sorensen also recognized some of the concerns that members raised throughout the ratification process, specifically around the negotiated pension plan governance review and the benefits review process.
"Over the next year, as we gather and analyze data from the Municipal Pension Plan, Health Benefits Trust and Pacific Blue Cross, we will be reaching out to our members to find out more about what they want in their benefits and pension plans and how best to address their needs and questions," she said. "Council has voted unanimously to move the proposed vote on benefits from the 500 delegates attending Convention in 2020 to members in the Provincial Collective Agreement as a whole."
Sorensen noted that the last few years have been packed full of initiatives aimed at creating a solid foundation for the future of BCNU, whether it's bargaining a new 'nurse-driven' contract, revising the union's constitution and bylaws, or advocating for safer workplaces though the Violence. Not Part of the Job campaign.
Sorensen wrapped up her annual address by stating she is motivated and committed to move BCNU forward with an ambitious platform. She also encouraged all members to use their powerful collective voices to be bold, speak up and advocate for vulnerable patients, pressure decision makers, and challenge the status quo.
"Do not be afraid of change, for without change, progress is impossible," she said. "If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. Let us model the way as leaders in our worksites and our communities. Never forget that you have the power to lead."
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