In a bid to protect quality services, save jobs and ward off further privatization in B.C.’s public health care system, unionized workers tabled a proposal with the Vancouver Island Health Authority today that could save the system as much as $21 million over the next three years.
The concessions proposal comes at a time when VIHA is evaluating offers from several private companies for lucrative housekeeping and dietary services contracts in Island hospitals.
“This agreement would see HEU members make significant sacrifices to safeguard public health care services and preserve family-supporting jobs,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “We urge VIHA not to risk the long-term future of quality health care services on the Island when a viable alternative exists.”
Allnutt says privatization creates tremendous instability in the health care system by robbing it of accountability and destroying the hospital’s integrated health care team.
The proposal’s concessions, which cover 1200 hospital workers, amount to more than $3 per hour and would be obtained through wage rollbacks of $2 per hour, a longer work week, reduced vacation time, and forfeiting cost of living increases.
“This is a viable alternative,” says Allnutt. “VIHA stands to achieve significant cost savings. Quality services would be protected. And 1200 health care workers who are about to be thrown onto B.C.’s growing unemployment lines would retain decent paying jobs.”
Recently, VIHA’s own Medical Health Officer publicly criticized the health authority for its push to privatize. Linking poverty to declining health status, Dr. Richard Stanwick warned against risking the health of hundreds of laid-off workers.
Allnutt agrees. “The impact of throwing hundreds of skilled and experienced health care employees out of work cannot be underestimated, whether you’re looking at the quality of patient care, the economic impact on Island communities, or the devastating personal repercussions this will have on the lives of individual health care workers and their families.”
The concessions package covers health care workers in housekeeping, laundry, dietary, maintenance, groundskeeping and transportation at all Island hospitals. Any tentative agreement that results from these negotiations will be subject to review by the union’s Provincial Executive and ratification by affected members.
More than 500 health care workers on Vancouver Island have already been laid off during the past year.
Patty Gibson, communications officer, at 604-456-7007 (direct); or 604-328-7393 (cell)