Nurses don't abuse overtime, on-call premiums

To the editor:

Re: "Audit found overuse of overtime in Vancouver hospitals," Aug. 5.

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Your story about an audit alleging an overuse of overtime at Vancouver Coastal Health is quite misleading. Our union has always advocated that health authorities reduce their reliance on overtime by increasing the number of regular nursing positions. Contrary to your story, nurses do not fill out "timecards" where their hours could be "coded overtime, vacation and/or regular time for the same hours of work." Coding for pay purposes is done by staffing clerks from central staffing. Overtime must be approved by a designated manager.

The story says "VCH collective agreements say nurses must complete 216 hours in three consecutive pay periods to earn overtime pay. But in a review of 16 pay periods, the report said that 853 part-time nurses were paid overtime when they did not complete the 216 hours." In fact, you are quoting selectively from a contract provision pertaining only to nurses working part time. The information about "overlapping claims" and "excessive" use of on-call premiums is also mystifying. For example, in hospital operating rooms on-call premiums of $3.75/hour are often paid once a nurse finishes a regular shift and leaves the workplace. That's to avoid paying for extra staffing, while ensuring the nurse will be available to return to work if required. By definition, nurses placed on-call are often not called back. But they must remain available for work and must restrict their off-hour activities accordingly.

Debra McPherson, president,

B.C. Nurses' Union

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