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AFTER REJECTING a $21 million cost-saving proposal from its workers, the Vancouver Island Health Authority has yet to respond to a union request to put on hold plans to privatize housekeeping and food services pending the outcome of province-wide contract talks, says the Hospital Employees' Union (CUPE). The union made the request during meetings held with VIHA representatives last Friday to discuss alternatives to privatization.

“This is an opportunity for the health authority to prove that it's serious about finding solutions that would retain skilled, experienced workers on the job at island health facilities,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.

“It would be a real loss to patients and the public if the health authority is just biding its time while it concludes a privatization deal and prepares pink slips for our members.”

Union members on Vancouver Island put forward a proposal to the VIHA last fall that included significant wage concessions in a bid to make sure that housekeeping, dietary and other services continue to be delivered by health authority employees rather than by private contractors paying wages in the $9 to $10 an hour range.

The health authority rejected that proposal shortly before Christmas. At risk are more than 1,000 positions in housekeeping and food services