VICTORIA, B.C- Nurses in British Columbia have a new labour deal.

According to a press release from the BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU), members have voted in favour of the tentative agreement reached between the Nurses Bargaining Association and the Health Employers Association of BC.

The agreement would cover 2019 into 2022.

“More than 21,000 ballots were cast with 54 per cent of nurses voting to ratify the three-year deal that was reached in November 2018,” read the release.

“The vote was held on January 21 at unionized work sites across the province.”

Union president Christine Sorensen believed that the contract was innovative, and would make a positive impact on the working lives of the union’s members and the patients in their care.

However, she did think that nurses had “sent a clear message” to the provincial government skeptical about real change.

According to a union survey, staffing and workload were two of the most critical areas of focus for the bargaining committee to bring to the table. The release states that health authourities across the province now have incentives to hire more nurses, with an emphasis on the focus on the first year of the agreement.

The aim of the incentives is to have more nurses in the system, and less workload pressure.

“Unsustainable workload coupled with a systemic nursing shortage has a direct impact on a nurse’s ability to provide safe patient care,” said Sorensen, in the release.

“Our members have spoken. While more needs to be done, this contract is a step in the right direction. It is now time for the union and employers to bring this language to life, and make real changes where our members and our patients need it most – our health care system.”

The agreement comes into effect on April 1st of 2019, and expires on March 31st, 2022.

According to the province, the agreement covers nurses working in hospitals, long-term care, community and public health, home support and mental health facilities throughout the province. It includes:

* a three-year term of April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2022

* general wage increases of 2% per year

* modernized staffing language that provides more certainty for employers and nurses, and improves continuity of patient care

* improved language to clarify and streamline the process for staff to address professional practice challenges in the workplace

The province also said there are just over 197,000 public-sector employees covered by tentative or ratified agreements reached under B.C.’s Sustainable Services Negotiating Mandate.