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BC’s provincial government has stepped up its attack on workers and public services over the weekend, imposing a settlement on teachers and gutting contract protections for CUPE health care and social service workers.

The Hospital Employees’ Union, CUPE’s BC health services division, denounced the move as a prelude to mass privatization of public health care and promised that its 46,000 members would use every means possible to thwart the government’s plans.

This is an outrageous attack on health care and on the principle of free collective bargaining,” said HEU spokesperson Chris Allnutt. “The premier and his government have shown us what their pre-election commitments to protect health care and respect contracts are really worth – absolutely nothing.”

In a letter to staff and locals, CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill called the government action “an unprecedented attack on working people in British Columbia.”

He is using his huge legislative majority to smash collective agreements and to open the door to contracting out our work to his business pals,” said O’Neill. “Make no mistake: this is an attack on us both as trade unionists and as citizens. It is an attack on health, social services and education in our communities. It is an attack on democracy in British Columbia.”

Bill 29, ironically named the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act, is a prescription for privatizing services, stripping workers of their collective bargaining rights and removing barriers to shutting down services.

The wide-ranging attack on health care contracts ends employment security, guts bumping provisions, removes contracting-out protection for non-clinical staff and prevents unions or workers from suing the government for damages.

For social service workers, the legislation rolls back hard-won gains in wages, benefits and layoff protection, and removes successor rights and the right of new certifications to be covered by the standard agreement.

Bill 28 strips CUPE education assistants of bumping rights when special needs students are involved. It also contemplates the possibility of year round schooling.

The response from BC workers has been swift. Over the weekend, thousands gathered for protests in Vancouver, Victoria and in communities across the province, many wearing black; many directing their anger at the premier, chanting ‘liar, liar, liar”. Further workplace protests and public rallies are planned for this week as CUPE joins with other unions to resist this legislation.

HEU’s Allnutt promised “our members will be working in their communities to build coalitions and a peoples’ opposition to prevent the Campbell government from closing hospitals, cutting services and gutting legally binding contracts.”

CUPE BC is launching its Strong Communities campaign this week, mobilizing members across the province to defend our jobs and public services and protect the quality of life in local communities.

Click here to read Bill 29 and accompanying regulations