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Hospital scrubs are getting accessorized.

CUPE members at the Palliser Health Authority in Medicine Hat, AB have begun wearing buttons to protest the slow pace of contract negotiations.

Employees have been wearing the buttons, which say “Health care support workers: critical to care,” since Wednesday. CUPE President Colleen Morrison says they are popular with her members.

“Wearing buttons may not seem like much, but it forces board members and management to face the fact that employees are not happy,” said Morrison. “And if members of the public see the buttons and start asking questions - so much the better.”

Morrison said the union members are upset with the fact that Palliser has not been willing to negotiate in months. The next scheduled negotiating dates are not until November.

“It’s bad enough that they are asking us to give up things like bereavement leave, or to accept a dental plan based on 1997 rates,” said Morrison. “But now they won’t even agree to sit down at a table, look us in the eye and explain their actions.”

“Employees are hopping mad at Palliser. Wearing a button is a good way to let off a little steam.”

BC medicare administration contracted to US firm: will the CIA read your medical history?

The BC government proposed changes to its information and privacy laws this week that it claims will protect the privacy of its citizens now that the province has contracted out administration of its medicare program to a US company.

But Barry O’Neill is not so sure.

Amendments to Canadian law cannot protect the privacy of Canadians when US companies are in possession of Canadians’ personal information, he said.

O’Neill argued that Maximus, the US-based company that won the contract, can choose whether to comply with Canadian or US law on privacy.

And even if the company observes the government’s new prohibition on storing information outside the country, the US government could still subpoena the company through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.

“The government is demonstrating that it’s far more concerned about protecting its privatization agenda than protecting British Columbians’ right to privacy,” O’Neill said.