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The Northern Health Authority’s plan - announced earlier today - to commit taxpayers to decade-long agreements with private corporations is an unnecessary gamble, says the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE).

The union is questioning why the health authority would lock itself into inflexible, long-term arrangements with laundry, food services and housekeeping contractors when province-wide collective bargaining is set to begin in 12 weeks.

“The NHA is preparing to shut the door on alternatives that may emerge from province-wide bargaining that would preserve critical support services and decent jobs in communities across the North,” says HEU northern director Kathy Jessome.

“I’m encouraging health authority officials not to roll the dice on the long-term future of health care delivery in the North in order to achieve short-term deficit targets,” adds Jessome.

At a press conference in Prince George, the NHA said it would seek proposals from private corporations for laundry services and for a combination of housekeeping and food services with a deadline of early December.

The provincial bargaining agent for health employers - including the NHA - has told health unions it wants a January start to talks for a new province-wide contract to succeed the current 2001-2004 collective agreement which expires March 31, 2004.

Earlier this month, an NHA-wide vote of health care workers on a deal that would have varied some contract provisions during the final six months of the 2001-2004 contract did not achieve sufficient support.

In subsequent votes, four of the 20 HEU locals held votes on local arrangements to vary the terms of the contract. Three out of the four accepted concessions to their contract chiefly in the areas of wages, vacation and scheduling.


Kathy Jessome, northern director, 250-960-9786 (cell)
Mike Old, communications director, 604-828-6771 (cell)