Employers agree to talks as thousands of health care workers take to the streets in Vancouver
HEU members protest across B.C. to mark anniversary of contract-breaking law
As thousands of health care workers marked the anniversary of Bill 29 with a march and rally in Vancouver and with acts of protest around the province, health employers have agreed to a meeting with their union in face-to-face talks on protecting public health care and seeking alternatives to privatization.
“We’re hopeful that the prospect of talks is a positive sign that government and health employers want to chart a new course for health care in B.C.,” says Hospital Employees’ Union secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “Because the chaos and confrontation that’s characterized the last year isn’t helping us find solutions to improving patient care.”
Earlier today, thousands of HEU members staged political protests outside major health care facilties in the Vancouver-area culminating in a rally in the downtown core which attracted up to 4,000 workers. Essential services were maintained at area hospitals during the protest to minimize its impact on patients.
Other protests around the province included a peaceful occupation of the Vancouver Island Health Authority offices in Victoria during which a number of protesters were arrested including one HEU activist. A rally was also held in the capital Tuesday morning.
Throughout the province, HEU members organized information sessions, wore black in the workplace, held rallies, marched on MLA offices and took other creative actions to mark the Bill 29 anniversary. Other events are planned for later today and throughout the week.
“HEU members showed courage and demonstrated their commitment to protecting public health care and fighting the government’s agenda of cuts, closures and privatization,” says Allnutt. “And they reminded British Columbians today that Gordon Campbell broke his promise to the women and men on health care’s front lines that he’d respect their legal contracts.”
Bill 29 shredded health contracts and gives health employers the tools they need to lay off thousands of skilled and experienced health care workers and award lucrative contracts to foreign corporations paying low wages. The jobs of more than 5,000 workers — mostly women — have been targeted for privatization in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley by June.
-30- Contact: Mike Old, communications officer, 604-828-6771 (cell)