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Posts Tagged "money"

9Aug

Committee recommends money for HandyDART, affordable transit fares in 2020 B.C. budget

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The HandyDART service made 1.3 million trips last year.


RICHARD LAM / PNG

Public transit could receive a boost in the next B.C. budget, if the provincial government heeds the advice of an all-party finance committee.

The select standing committee on finance and government, which conducted public consultations across B.C., released a report this week with more than 100 recommendations for the 2020 budget, including six for transit and transportation.

In the interest of making transit more accessible for people with disabilities, the committee said the province should increase funding to expand HandyDART, a door-to-door shared ride service.

“(The committee) acknowledged the importance of HandyDART for increasing accessibility and supporting inclusion,” the report said.

Beth McKellar, co-chair of the HandyDART Riders’ Alliance, said the recommendation is important because the service is in high demand and desperately needs more funding, despite Metro Vancouver’s regional transit authority having added more service.

HandyDART’s ridership has been on the rise for the past five years, and delivered 1.3 million trips in 2018.

“We’re just a wee tiny blip on the radar, but I’m pleased this all came out and I’m hoping that they do the right thing. I always have that little bit of hope,” McKellar said.

The committee made a similar recommendation for the 2019 budget, calling for “increased and sustained” funding for HandyDART services.

Although funding was allocated in the last budget to B.C. Transit to expand bus and HandyDART services in four communities over three years, Metro Vancouver was left out, to the dismay of advocates and the region’s mayors.

“It was good that the Island got it, that B.C. Transit got it, but we need it a lot more over here,” said McKellar.

In recent years, TransLink’s Mayors’ Council has argued that the province should help pay for HandyDART because the majority of trips are related to health services, such as dialysis, and said there should be a long-term, sustainable funding model for the service.

The committee also recommended that the province work with local governments and transit authorities “to explore new pricing mechanisms to help make public transit more accessible for youth and low-income families.”

“We think this is an excellent recommendation and we urge the government to follow through on it,” said Viveca Ellis, a community organizer for #AllOnBoard.

#AllOnBoard has advocated for free transit for all children and youth up to and including 18 years old, and a sliding-scale monthly pass system based on income for all transit systems in B.C.

“We know that affordability is an important part of our current government’s mandate, and as communities and many, many community members have brought forward to us transit is not affordable for many British Columbians,”

The Mayors’ Council has also discussed free transit for youths, but believes the province needs to be involved on the funding side to offset fare revenue losses. Victoria will offer free transit to all youths who live in the city in a pilot project starting in September.

On the transit side the committee also recommended working with public and private operators to address gaps in regional transportation services — particularly in rural and remote areas — and prioritizing faster deployment of electric buses in cities, including expensive charging infrastructure.

In the area of active transportation, the committee said the province should invest in walking and biking infrastructure, education and promotion, as well as eliminate provincial sales tax on electric bicycles.

In a statement the Ministry of Finance said it is “in the process of reviewing the report in detail and considers all proposals, including recommendations brought forward by this committee, during the yearly budget process.”

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9Jan

B.C. nurses against tentative deal want more staff, not more money

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There are hundreds of nursing vacancies posted on the HealthMatch B.C. website, but not even the union knows how many more jobs need to be filled.


There are hundreds of nursing vacancies posted on the HealthMatch B.C. website, but not even the union knows how many more jobs need to be filled.


Christopher Furlong / Getty Images files

A vocal group of frustrated nurses is threatening to reject a three-year tentative contract with the provincial government because it doesn’t come with written guarantees that more nurses will be hired for short-staffed hospital units.

The voting deadline for the tentative deal is Jan. 21 and, as Postmedia stories have been documenting contract details this week, nurses have been voicing their concerns in emails and on social media that the deal doesn’t go far enough to hold employers to account.

This, even though the Health Employers Association of B.C., which negotiates on behalf of the government, agreed to a provision in the $3.99-billion contract in which nurses working on short-staffed units will be given an hourly bonus ranging from $3 to $5 an hour. The “working short” premiums could cost taxpayer-funded health facilities as much as $100 million a year, according to the union bargaining team which insists that it is putative and is, therefore, a huge incentive for hospitals to fill vacancies.

The cost of the premiums is considered an “unfunded liability” to health employers so amounts owing to nurses would come out of hospital and other budgets already allocated by the provincial government. It remains to be seen whether the ministry of health would hand over more money to health authorities to cover the premiums.

Naysayers are skeptical that the premiums will achieve their purpose; some say it will still be cheaper to pay the premiums than to hire new nurses. Nearly $200 million was paid in overtime to nurses last year.

Health Employers spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward said in an interview that the agreement “requires employers to take all reasonable efforts to fill shifts, including going to full overtime rates.

“The working short premium is intended to compensate nurses who are required to work short if a shift can’t be filled. The goal of employers is to minimize the number of times this premium would be paid.”

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There are hundreds of nursing vacancies posted on the HealthMatch B.C. website but not even the union knows how many more jobs need to be filled, so the contract provides for a workload assessment process over the next year meant to show what “safe staffing” levels are for each hospital unit. The union can also press for more hirings in other ways, as it did at St. Paul’s Hospital last year.

The “working short premium” as it is called, will kick in on April 1, 2020 and B.C. Nurses Union CEO Umar Sheikh has said that many of the 6,000 casual nurses should be converted to regular, permanent positions to help plug the “four million hours” when hospitals are short staffed.

B.C. Nurses Union CEO Umar Sheikh.


B.C. Nurses Union CEO Umar Sheikh.

PNG

Sheikh acknowledged it may be difficult to find and hire enough registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses and licensed practical nurses. Recent reports by the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Institute of Health Information show that nationally, there is an alarming slowdown in the growth of employed nurses.

The annual growth rate fell to 0.7 per cent from 2016 to 2017, the slowest in a decade. In 2017 (the last year for which data is available), a total of 4,271 nurses were registered for the first time in B.C., but in the same year 3,135 retired, so there was a net gain of only 1,136 nurses. By comparison, Ontario had net gains of 1,941 nurses and Alberta had 1,183.

Nurses say they can’t speak on the record during the ratification process but they have been reaching out in droves — off the record — to articulate their worries.

B.C. Nurses Union president Christine Sorensen.


B.C. Nurses Union president Christine Sorensen.

Wayne Leidenfrost /

PNG

In a comment posted under a news story, Teresa Johnson-Fortune said:

“We have been working short staffed for years and the government has not lived up to their previous contract negotiations. The current health care system is run based on nurses doing crazy amounts of overtime. We are tired, but most of us do overtime because we feel bad for our co-workers and don’t want to leave them working short.”

Sheikh told his union members the working short premiums are high enough that hospitals will be compelled to hire extra staff rather than pay it. For example, the $5 per hour premium represents an 11.38-per-cent wage increase on top of the 7.75-per-cent increase nurses will get over three years. (Although the contract calls for a two-per-cent increase each year, an extra 1.75 is due to nurses this year as a carryover from the last contract.)

“The working short premium represents a commitment by the employers — (one) we haven’t seen before.”

Nurses union president Christine Sorensen told members in the same teleconference that the understaffing in hospitals is “simply unsustainable.” The contract addresses priorities nurses identified before bargaining, she said, including compensation for all time worked, wage increases, benefits protection, workloads and safe staffing levels, and a premium “for those times when you did not have staff (on leaves) replaced.”

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8Oct

Woman says she was followed, asked for money before alleged bus assault

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A woman who says she was attacked on a transit bus in Vancouver says she’d been followed and asked for money before the violent outburst which was partially caught on camera.

The woman, who did not want to be publicly identified, said she got on the bus shortly before 2 a.m. Thursday on Granville Street near Davie.

She said a man had asked her for money, then appeared to be following her before she boarded. She said she told the bus driver she felt unsafe as she got on.

The man then boarded the bus without paying, and eventually accosted her, she told CTV News.

The woman pulled out her phone and recorded part of the incident, in which a man can be seen stumbling and asking the woman for money.

She’s heard telling him she has nothing for him. He then swears at her and gets off the bus, slamming his hand against the window where the woman was sitting once outside.

He is then seen running back onto the bus and yelling obscenities at her.

“You’re going to jail,” she tells him.

Police say the man tried to grab her phone and she was assaulted. She was not physically harmed, and the suspect left the scene before investigators arrived.

Other transit users told CTV there are times they’ve felt unsafe as well.

“Nighttime transit makes me feel a little questionable about my safety just because there’s a lot of people who are rather in a state unable to drive or just looking for a place to be,” one person said.

Another said they’ve purposely sat near the driver or moved seats during incidents on the bus.

In this case, police say they’re reviewing security camera footage as part of their investigation.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Maria Weisgarber


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