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The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority told health unions this afternoon that it will award lucrative contracts for hospital dietary, cleaning and security services over the next few weeks at a cost of 1,500 family-supporting jobs to the region’s economy, says the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE).

It’s a move that will hurt patients, says the union, because private corporations contracted by the authority will pay wages in the $9.50 an hour range leading to high staff turnover and lower standards in area hospitals.

“No one can support their family on these wages in the Vancouver area for very long,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “And government’s privatization plans will backfire on patients because poverty-level wages won’t attract and retain skilled and experienced workers in these critical areas.

“The recent SARS outbreak was a wakeup call about the importance of a smoothly functioning health care team,” adds Allnutt. “But it’s a warning that the provincial government and its health authorities haven’t heard.”

VCHA was required to inform HEU of the changes under the Labour Relations Code. Approximately 1,000 regular staff and at least 500 casual staff are affected.

Allnutt says today’s notice also signals that the VCHA may be getting ready to sell off one the most efficient hospital laundries in the country - Delta’s Tilbury Regional Hospital Laundry.

Last week, the Provincial Health Services’ Authority told about 500 housekeeping and dietary workers at Children’s and Women’s Health Centre and the B.C. Cancer Agency that they’ll be sacked this fall.

Earlier this week, laundry workers at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver were given their pink slips.


Mike Old, communications officer, 604-828-6771 (cell)