BY PAMELA FAYERMAN
The B.C. Nurses Union is one of the biggest – 48,000 members including registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses, licensed graduate nurses, licensed practical nurses, employed student nurses, and other health care support staff.
It is also one of the most influential in B.C. Indeed, no government and no campaigning political party ever wants to be on the wrong side of the BCNU. (The provincial Liberals often were).
Later today or in the coming days, the union will announce a new slate of officers after an election campaign that featured the usual dose of controversies, most of them triggered by discontented nurses.
I’ve written about their elections, contracts, and negotiations over the past 25 years and can say, quite confidently, a journalist could carve out a full-time beat writing about the BCNU with stories like this one that I wrote last year.
Up until a week ago, there had been another nurse running against BCNU president Christine Sorensen but she dropped out, leaving Sorensen as the acclaimed president.
From my view, Sorensen has done an impressive job since she took over as president amidst a controversy involving her predecessor.
As with many of the previous BCNU election campaigns, there have been allegations of dirty tricks that nurses have shared with me. Perhaps the most surprising came from union members who alleged conflicts of interest involving the company used to conduct the online balloting that began August 14 and closed earlier today.
Previously, the BCNU had used a Telus-affiliated company called Simply Voting but for this election, a newly formed company called Reliable Voting was used.
Allegedly, the wife of a lawyer used by the BCNU is a principal in the online ballot company.
I asked the BCNU about the conflict of interest allegations and whether the new company was properly vetted. BCNU Nominations Committee Chair Michelle Nelson said this in a statement sent through the communications and campaigns coordinator:
“BCNU’s elections are managed by the union’s nominations committee – an independent committee of nurse members who have been elected by their peers. The purpose of the committee is to conduct elections of the union and assume responsibility for all aspects of a fair and transparent election process.
“The complaint brought forward by a member of BCNU has been thoroughly investigated by the nominations committee. The union will not be commenting further at this time.”
In social media, Michelle Nelson, chair of the nominations committee, also fired off this warning shot a few weeks ago:
I asked Sorensen to comment on the allegations and she said they came from disgruntled members.
“A request for proposals went out for the election company. An independent body running our elections selected the company. It was all above board.”
She added the union contracts with independent lawyers as contractors, not as employees.
“It’s all above board and approved by the (nominations committee).”
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