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Fourteen HEU members in housekeeping and security at Langley Gardens, a private, for-profit seniors complex in the Fraser Valley, were unceremoniously fired on Tuesday in the midst of bargaining for a first collective agreement.

The workers were summoned to a staff meeting characterized by management as an update on the security system. Instead, the members were terminated, then immediately escorted off the premises by Langley Gardens excluded staff. Privately contracted services were brought in quickly to pick up the bargaining unit work. The employer did not notify the union.

HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt says that the union recognizes how difficult it is for the members because of the employers particularly ruthless termination of their jobs.

When the boss does something like this with the hope of intimidating and demoralizing people, the opposite usually occurs, he says. We come together with increased determination to win fairness and justice in the workplace.

Allnutt, HEU president Fred Muzin and financial secretary Mary LaPlante came into a meeting of affected members, Langley Gardens local chairperson Randy Thoroid and union servicing representatives held today at the Provincial Office. They noted other cases of management bullying that failed in the face of workers solidarity, and pledged the unions support to overcome this latest tactic in what has become a tense and unproductive set of negotiations.

More than 100 Langley Gardens workers certified with HEU on February 6, 2001. Negotiations for a first collective agreement began in March and dragged on into the fall. Members took a strike vote in October and voted 91 per cent in favour of job action. To break the bargaining stalemate, HEU filed for mediation with the Labour Relations Board. The application was approved and the parties are scheduled to meet with a mediator on December 6.

Langley Gardens includes a 92-bed seniors long-term care facility, independent seniors condominiums for purchase and full service seniors rental housing. The complex is owned by C-PAC, one of British Columbias largest and fastest growing private, for-profit seniors housing and care corporations.