05/01/2014 05:36 EDT | Updated 07/01/2014 05:59 EDT

Thousands of B.C. health-care workers vote 96 per cent in favour of strike

BURNABY, B.C. - The union representing 47,000 B.C. health-care workers, including emergency dispatchers, dietary staff and care aides, has voted 96 per cent in favour of a strike.

The workers belong to 11 unions represented by the Facilities Bargaining Association, which says benefits, employment security and improved health and safety provisions are key issues in its contract talks.

The Hospital Employees Union, which covers 85 per cent of the workers, says the association is also seeking changes to the ambulance service so paramedics can provide enhanced patient care.

Bonnie Pearson, spokeswoman for the association that is province's largest public-sector bargaining unit, says a reasonable agreement is possible if the Health Employers Association abandons its demands for contract rollbacks.

The current round of talks began in January and broke off in late March.

Workers seeking a new contract are employed at hospitals, residential care facilities and in emergency health services.