Last week, our government passed Bill 18, which allows nurses to work together under the same bargaining structure. Licensed Practical Nurses had previously voted to change their union representation and join Registered Nurses in the B.C. Nurses Union, and Bill 18 is completely in line with their wishes. Interestingly, the NDP, which says it supports unions and the rights of workers, voted against the bill; Adrian Dix has also said in the past he would consider taking away the unions’ secret ballot, which would remove a fundamental democratic right that everyone should be entitled to.
At the moment, Licensed Practical Nurses, or LPNs, are in a separate bargaining structure than Registered Nurses, or RNs. While RNs get their own nurse-specific bargaining association, LPNs are lumped together with many other healthcare professionals. This doesn’t really make sense, since at the end of the day, both RNs and LPNs are nurses. What Bill 18 does is expand the official definition of nurse to include LPNs, and puts LPNs together in the same bargaining structure as RNs. LPNs had a vote on this and the majority voted in favour of joining RNs in the B.C. Nurses Union, and this legislation does exactly that.
Not only is this legislation in line with what nurses want, it also makes a lot of sense from a practical standpoint. A single agreement that covers all nurses, regardless of whether they are LPNs or RNs, will have a lot of potential benefits. It also means that LPNs will be able to play a bigger role in nursing. Our government realizes that it must consult with both nurses and with other stakeholder groups before these changes are made, and it will certainly do so. However, LPNs have democratically decided that they want to join the B.C. Nurses Union, and this legislation supports their decision. This is in contrast to the NDP, which voted against the bill even though it is what nurses want.
Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin.