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Health labour legislation introduced today by the Campbell Liberals is an attempt to guarantee massive long-term profits for multinational corporations at the expense of basic workers’ rights and living standards, says the Hospital Employees’ Union.

The union says Bill 94 tries to exempt corporations involved in so-called private-public partnerships from basic provisions of B.C.’s labour laws and labour jurisprudence.

“This legislation is nothing short of an abuse of power by a government that’s desperate to get just one P3 project off the ground,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.

“It’s an effort to bust unions and destroy family-supporting jobs in B.C. hospitals forcing thousands of health care employees into legislated poverty.” Allnutt notes that the Abbotsford Hospital P3 project is already behind schedule and overbudget. The recently released request for proposals for the project promised the bidding consortia exemption from basic labour laws for more than 30 years.

Bill 94 sharpens the attack on health care workers first launched by the Campbell Liberals in their contract breaking law - Bill 29 - passed in January, 2002.

The legislation introduced today:
  • attempts to deprive workers of their continued right to union representation in situations where health authorities contract out services;
  • attempts to prevent unions from improving wages and working conditions by giving private “partners” carte blanche to sub-contract out services at will; and
  • eliminates the application of the “true employer” provisions of the labour code throughout health sector effectively overriding decades of legal precedents that have prevented employers from undermining workers’ rights through contracting out.
“This is the kind of draconian legislation you’d expect in a repressive third-world dictatorship, not in a modern democracy,” says Allnutt. “But it won’t prevent workers from unionizing and HEU will be there to help them.”

The union is studying the legislation and is considering whether it can be included in a broader constitutional challenge of Bill 29 that is heading to the B.C. Court of Appeal.