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Fraser Health Authority CEO Bob Smith has rejected a union call for negotiating alternatives to contracting out and confirmed that a major contract for housekeeping services will be announced later this week.

It's a move that will result in the privatization of cleaning services from patient wards to operating rooms and isolation units and result in the loss of about 700 skilled, experienced hospital staff.

During the meeting held Monday at the request of the union, HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt also pressed Smith to take measures to mitigate the impact of layoffs and to provide all possible severance to affected members through the application of all collective agreement and employment standards provisions for notice of termination.

“Clearly, I'm very disappointed at Mr. Smith's response to our request for negotiations,” says Allnutt. “The loss of jobs to our members will have a devastating impact on their families and on local communities and businesses throughout the Fraser Valley.”

In addition to plans to contract out housekeeping, the FHA has already contracted out laundry services and security and is exploring the privatization of some elements of food services.

According to Smith, there are no concrete plans for privatization in other areas at this time.