11/25/2012 07:45 EST | Updated 01/25/2013 05:12 EST

Wage hike part of tentative contract reached for 46,000 B.C. health-care workers

VANCOUVER - More than 46,000 British Columbia health-care workers could be getting a wage boost after their bargaining teams and provincial employers reached a tentative labour agreement.

The multi-union Facilities Bargaining Association says it has reached a two-year proposed settlement after nine months of "difficult" negotiations.

Early this month, the workers representing 11 unions voted 96 per cent in favour of a strike. At the time, their spokeswoman Bonnie Pearson said the employers were looking for a savings of 25 per cent around benefits, which was a key sticking point.

Instead, the tentative agreement includes a continuation of benefits, along with an across-the-board wage hike of three per cent and a moratorium on layoffs due to contracting out.

"The (association) unions have worked hard to ensure that this tentative settlement honours our members' priorities in a large and diverse bargaining unit, and that it meets their needs," Pearson said Sunday in a release.

The association represents workers in publicly-funded hospitals, long-term care facilities, emergency health services and health authority corporate offices.

Most are members of the Hospital Employees Union, but some are also represented by the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union, the B.C. Nurses' Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 873.

Information and ratification meetings will be conducted by the unions over the coming few weeks.

Negotiations began in February, while the current contract expired on March 31.