A Decade of Growth

In the 1990s, HSA ramped up its efforts to organize non-unionized workers. Since 1996, HSA’s membership has doubled in size, from 10,000 to 20,000 members today.

In the 1990s, HSA ramped up its efforts to organize non-unionized workers. Since 1996, HSA’s membership has doubled in size, from 10,000 to 22,000 members today. 

In 1992, a groundbreaking arbitration decision pertaining to Variety Child Development Centre (CDC) in Surrey delivered to early childhood educators wage increases totaling nearly 60 per cent over three years. For preschool teachers with six years’ experience, this meant a pay increase from $12.04 to $19.09 an hour. This decision was a major stepping stone for integrating early childhood educators into the pay grid of the HSA Master Agreement, which has since evolved into the HSPBA Master Agreement. The decision came down the same year that the Ministry of Women’s Equality announced plans to stabilize and expand childcare services in BC.

HSA then advocated for staff at other CDCs to receive the same wages. According to HSA Organizer Janice Davis, a former preschool teacher at Variety CDC, “HSA used this big win to go and organize 13 child development centres in the province. HSA is now the union representing workers in the most CDCs in BC.” Davis played a key role in this organizing work.  

In 1993, delegates passed a resolution at HSA Convention committing HSA to expand new member organizing, including in community facilities. This directive was prompted by the reduction of full-time equivalencies in acute care by the province. The reforms initiated under Health Minister Elizabeth Cull transferred many jobs in acute care into the community sector.

And that year, health care unions entered into the Health Labour Accord, a negotiating process whereby HSA, the Hospital Employees’ Union, and the BC Nurses Union (BCNU) were seeking commitments around job security and retraining in the face of major healthcare restructuring and downsizing. 

In July 1993, the three health care unions signed on to the three-year Employment Security Agreement, which secured a commitment to union and public consultation in health care restructuring, and unemployment protections for health care workers. 

As 1993 came to a close, the year saw the certification of ten new bargaining units, including Comox Valley Transition Society and the Salvation Army’s Wiseman House. And in January 1994, Vancouver Island Haven House joined the growing list of transition houses on Vancouver Island organized with HSA as a result of active union drives. 

HSA welcomed into its membership community social service workers including youth care workers, addiction counsellors, transition house workers, and child care workers. And throughout the 1990s, transition houses across the entire province became organized with HSA.

In 1995, 220 registered psychiatric nurses working in 79 facilities in long-term care and the community entered HSA, joining with RPNs in acute care who had already had longstanding representation in HSA. 

That year, the Labour Relations Board ordered a profession-wide vote of all RPNs in acute care, long-term care, and the community. RPNs were asked to choose which union they would like to represent them: HSA or BCNU. RPNs overwhelmingly chose HSA. 

And on November 24, 1995, HSA received certification for all RPNs in BC who were not in direct government employment. At the time, there were approximately 650 RPNs in BC’s entire health care sector. While a small number of RPNs have since left HSA due to raids in the past decade by BCNU, HSA now represents almost 1,400 RPNs across the province.

Today, workers are continuing to join HSA in order to achieve fairness and equity at work through collective strength. In recent years, workers from the PET and Cyclotron facility at BC Cancer, the Canadian Mental Health Association staff in Vancouver and Victoria, spiritual health professionals on Vancouver Island, and Mackenzie Counseling Services Society staff have joined HSA.