Physician Master Agreement - How Negotiations Works

May 6, 2019

Members often ask us “how do negotiations work”? We have prepared the following information to provide an overview of the process, highlighting the importance of the physician voice in the development of the negotiating mandate and in the bargaining. 

Often people think that the actual bargaining period is when negotiations start, and that is not the case. The process begins well before that, and the important work done in preparation for bargaining is critical to achieving success.

The information below provides an overview of the key steps and milestones in developing the mandate for negotiations, the bargaining, and how an agreement is approved by members. Do you have questions or suggestions after reading the article? E-mail us at


Detailed information on negotiations process

1. Physician input is the foundation  ​

PMA negotiations are driven by members’ priorities and interests. Doctors of BC starts its work well in advance of face-to-face bargaining. We gather extensive input from physicians in many different ways so that we fully understand the membership’s key priorities and concerns. For example, in our negotiations for the 2019 PMA, we consulted through:

  • President’s letter seeking input from every physician.

  • A comprehensive survey of members regarding their PMA negotiations priorities.

  • Meetings with all sections and both societies.

  • Meetings with DoBC representatives from GPSC, SSC, SCC, Joint Benefits Committee

  • Input from the Representative Assembly.

  • Online consultations with members.

All of the feedback from members is collected and analyzed to find recurring themes and priority areas.

2. Understanding the environment

While the consultation is underway, staff is busy reviewing the negotiations environment, taking into consideration factors that can impact negotiations. These include: economic indicators, other provincial settlements, government and Ministry priorities, and the Doctors of BC Strategic plan.

3. Developing the plan 

Once we’ve obtained physician input and assessed the negotiating environment, Doctors of BC staff work together to develop a draft negotiating plan for review by the physician committees that have the responsibility to recommend the plan to the Board of Directors.

4. Physician input into the draft plan

Once the draft negotiating plan is prepared, it is reviewed by two internal Doctors of BC Committees, also made up of physicians. This is done to ensure that it represents the interests of all physicians in BC. This requires a balancing of the priorities of individual member groups.

The Chief Negotiator presents the draft negotiating plan for review, input, amendment, and approval to the following committees:

5. Final approval - Board of Directors

Once the draft negotiating plan is endorsed by the Negotiations Forum, it is presented to the Doctors of BC Board of Directors. Approval by the Board constitutes direction to the SNC to formally begin  negotiations with the BC government.

6. Face-to-face negotiations

Now negotiations between Doctors of BC and the BC government can formally begin. Negotiations for Doctors of BC are carried out by the SNC. It’s primary responsibility in this phase is to lead on PMA negotiations in accordance with the negotiating plan approved by the Board of Directors. The Chief Negotiator is the chief advisor to the SNC and is the committee’s official spokesperson in the negotiations.

The government and Doctors of BC generally agree to a communications/media blackout during the period of face-to-face negotiations so that each side can explore the broadest range of options to find a deal that represents both parties best interests. This is a common practice in almost all negotiations.

7. Agreement and ratification

Once the partners reach a tentative settlement, the following steps are taken:

  • Board of Directors: Reviews and must approve the tentative settlement. Board approval constitutes direction that the tentative settlement be distributed to the general membership for ratification

  • Membership Referendum: A summary of the tentative settlement and the detailed changes to the PMA are distributed to the general membership for consideration in the ratification vote.

  • Ratification vote period - Members are given 3 to 5 weeks to review the material and to vote on whether to accept the changes.

  • If a majority of the membership votes in support of the deal, it is ratified and the agreement is signed by all parties. 

Do you have questions about the negotiations process? E-mail us at

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