Health minister urged to investigate impact of mass firings on seniors' care

    Another round of pink slips brings the number of care staff laid off in
    less than a month to more than 650

    VANCOUVER, June 6 /CNW/ - The Hospital Employees' Union is calling on
B.C.'s health minister to investigate a recent flood of termination notices -
issued to staff at several publicly-funded long-term care homes - to determine
the impact on seniors' care.
    The call comes as 41 care aides at West Vancouver Care Centre employed by
a sub-contractor, CareSource, received their layoff notices. This brings the
number of staff fired over the last three weeks to more than 650 as commercial
contracts for care services are flipped by facility operators.
    The union is urging Health Minister George Abbott to use his existing
powers under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act to launch an
investigation to determine how constant staff turnover will affect the quality
and continuity of care for seniors living in these facilities.
    HEU is also calling for a moratorium on termination notices and further
contract-flipping pending the outcome of the investigation.
    "The health minister can no longer claim that the endless flipping of
contracts in long-term care is simply a labour relations matter," says HEU
secretary-business manager Judy Darcy.
    "In fact, it's a massive disruption in the continuity of care for
thousands of seniors caused by government policies that openly encourage
sub-contracting and de-unionization in the sector."
    In particular, the union points to Bill 29, the 2002 legislation that
removed contracting-out protections for health care workers and allowed health
employers to sidestep key provisions of the B.C. Labour Code that apply in
every other sector of the economy.
    Bill 94, a companion law passed by the B.C. Liberal government in 2003,
extended these special exemptions to sub-contractors operating in the sector.
    In addition to layoffs at West Vancouver Care Centre last Friday, 450
care aides and licensed practical nurses received pink slips last week at West
Vancouver's Inglewood Care Centre, Coquitlam's Dufferin Care Centre and
Vancouver's Windermere Care Centre.
    In early May, 168 staff were laid off at Nanaimo Seniors Village.
    "Seniors and their families deserve the stability that comes with a
consistent and caring environment," says Darcy. "And their caregivers deserve
a secure workplace along with the right to free collective bargaining."


    Investigation under Community Care and Assisted Living Act

    HEU is calling on Health Minister George Abbott to use his powers under
the 2002 Community Care and Assisted Living Act to investigate and report on
the potential impact on seniors resulting from mass layoffs of the staff who
provide the bulk of their personal care.
    Section 4(1)(d)(ii) of the Act provides broad powers to the director of
licensing - a designate of the minister - to "carry out or order the
investigation of a matter affecting the health and safety of a person in
    Under Section 4(1)(a)(i) of the Act, the director of licensing can
"require a health authority to provide routine or special reports on the
operation of licensed community care facilities within the area for which the
health authority has responsibility."

    Timeline of recent contract-flipping and termination notices

    May 7 - Retirement Concepts cancels its sub-contract with CareSource,
leading to the termination of more than 160 health care workers at Nanaimo
Seniors Village. It's the third time since 2003 that these workers have been
laid off and the contracts flipped. It is unclear which new company will
provide care services in September, when the terminations take effect.
    May 30 - SimpeQ, a sub-contractor at three privately owned facilities -
Windermere Care Centre, Inglewood Care Centre and Dufferin Care Centre -
terminates more than 450 health care workers after it cancels its contracts
with facility operators. It is unclear which new company will provide care
services after September 30, when the terminations take effect.
    June 1 - CareSource, a sub-contractor at West Vancouver Care Centre,
terminates 41 health care workers after the facility's owner cancels its
contract with the company. It is unclear which company will provide care
services in the future.

    Bill 29 and Bill 94

    Bill 29, the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act, is the
controversial 2002 legislation that removed or rewrote contracting out,
seniority and other provisions of health care and community social services
collective agreements. The legislation restricts free collective bargaining on
many of these issues. Bill 29 also excluded health care and community social
services workers from the successorship provisions of the B.C. Labour Code.
Successorship allows workers to retain their negotiated wages and benefits and
union representation with a new employer.
    On June 8, the Supreme Court of Canada will render a decision on health
unions' legal arguments that Bill 29 should be declared in violation of the
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
    Bill 94, the Health Sector Partnerships Agreement Act, is the 2003
legislation that extended many of the special rights given to health employers
in Bill 29 to sub-contractors.

For further information:

For further information: Patty Gibson, HEU communications officer, (604)
328-7393 (cell) or (604) 456-7007 (direct)

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