10/19/2012 03:50 EDT | Updated 12/19/2012 05:12 EST

B.C. nurses union vote near 85 per cent to ratify two-year agreement

VANCOUVER - B.C.'s 32,000 nurses have voted to accept a new two-year contract agreement that gives them more wages and a reduction in work loads.

Nurses approved the contract by almost 85 per cent that provides a three-per-cent wage increase and a longer work week of 37.5 hours in order to reduce overtime hours.

B.C. Nurses Union president Debra McPherson says the contract will give nurses new tools to reduce heavy workloads and improve patient care by calling in nurses to replace those off sick or on vacation.

McPherson says the contract contains clear provisions that recognize a nurse's judgment on when to call in more nursing help to meet the needs of patients.

The agreement is one of the first under the provincial government's so-called co-operative gains mandate.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong says the agreement demonstrates that even in challenging fiscal times, settlements can be reached without taking money from taxpayers or reducing services.