In BC, more than 4,000 hospital housekeepers and dietary workers in privatized jobs face a precarious and insecure future in health care.

Even though these HEU members provide a critical public service, funded by public tax dollars, they are denied basic job security protections afforded other workers in health care.

When BC’s health authorities contracted out these critical health services to multinational corporations starting in 2003, they effectively abandoned responsibility for the workers.

Suddenly, these health care workers found themselves in economically marginal and insecure jobs.

Wages were slashed, benefits were cut and pensions were axed. The number of jobs were reduced. And when health authorities change contractors, these workers are fired.

Forced to reapply for their jobs, they have no guarantee of employment. If an individual is hired back, they start at the bottom with lower wages, fewer benefits and no seniority.

This happened two years ago when BC’s Vancouver Coastal Health Authority changed its cleaning contractor from Aramark to Compass Group Canada after a decade. At that time, more than 900 workers were fired and forced to re-apply for their jobs at facilities throughout the region.

But there is another way. Health authorities have the ability to require companies who bid on these services to keep the existing workforce with their current wages, as well as their seniority and collective agreements intact.

Most recently, when another publicly-funded institution in BC – Simon Fraser University – changed its food services contractor, the new contractor was required to hire the entire workforce at wages that were the same or better than what the outgoing contractor was paying.

HEU is demanding BC’s health authorities do the same. It’s time to ensure the province’s hospitals are staffed by a stable experienced workforce with fair wages and job security. After all, if a public university can respect its contracted workforce, why can’t our public hospitals?