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June 2003

    Health Workers Fight Bill 29

    Chris Carr

    Veteran Care aid workers providing direct care to 95 residents at Willingdon Care Aid home in Burnaby were handed lay off notices, this spring, by the hospital’s administration that plan to restructure under Bill 29.

    On April 28, twenty-eight care aid staffs, some with as many as 25 years service to the home, was told that their last day of employment would be on June 27 this year.

    In response, workers, all members of the Hospital Employees Union, staged a noisy rally outside the home to tell the Campbell Government that privatization is not the answer for BC’s ailing health care system. The care aid workers attending the rally slammed the BC Liberals, who they say passed Bill 29 last year to allow employers to make greater profits, rather than to create an improved health care system.  

    Chairperson of the local, Raj Edwards attended that rally. Speaking on behalf of Willingdon Park care aid staff, she called the move unjust.

    “We are laid off from this facility. We understand that lay offs mean that there is no work, or there is a shortage of work. There is no shortage of work. They are going to replace us with lower wages. Our jobs are still there. The owner is looking for profits and owners’ pockets are getting bigger. He is trying to profit off of seniors,” Edwards said.

    Workers are enraged by plans that they say will see them replaced by staff that will work for a fraction of wage workers receive now. They added that when they leave Willingdon Park Care Home, patients will be the ones who suffer the most, as relationships between patients and staff will be severed, all for the sake of profit.

    A similar situation occurred late last year when Care Aid workers at a home at Point Grey Care Home were issued lay-off notices so the administration could restructure under Bill 29. The notices were later rescinded after outside pressures forced management to reconsider their actions.

    Meanwhile, Bill 29’s measures are resulting in more lay-offs and firings in health authority regions across the province. Recently, the Coastal Health Authority announced the sacking of 1500 workers, with 1000 to lose their jobs on Vancouver Island.

    The HEU is also applied to the Freedom of Information office to make public a secret deal between bosses at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver and the US-based K-Bro Corporation to contract out laundry services at a cost of 47 jobs. But company representatives have told hospital workers at recruitment meetings that it will cut wages in half to $9.50 an hour and require workers to put in 10-hour shifts over a four-day work week at their soon-to-be-opened Burnaby facility.

    Last week, 500 cleaning and dietary staff at BC Children's and Women's Health Centre and the BC Cancer Agency received their lay off notices.

    Bill 29 is currently being challenged as a violation of freedom of association and undue breach of contract in BC Supreme Court. A ruling is expected later this year.



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