HEU response to first wave of privatization

News release

Notes for Chris Allnutt, secretary-business manager CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Before the last election, Gordon Campbell sold B.C. taxpayers and front-line health care workers a bill of goods.

He said he'd protect health care.

He said health care workers didn't need to worry about privatization from a Gordon Campbell government.

He said their work was important and would be valued.

But yesterday, hundreds of our members learned that Gordon Campbell's word is worth nothing.

Yesterday, B.C. health authorities unleashed the first of what will be endless privatization announcements as they obediently strive to reach the Campbell Liberals' goal of selling off $700 million of health services.

Let's be clear.

This is not about saving money or improving patient care.

It's about a cold-hearted, calculated and ideological strategy to sell off our health care system one piece at a time.

A month ago, our union released secret government budget documents that showed the Campbell Liberals would actually lose money by privatizing services. In fact, to save a third of one per cent of the health budget through privatization, it's willing to fork out more than $160 million.

And today, we're releasing internal health employer documents that map out the attack plan for dismantling health care.

It shows that on the ground, the Campbell Liberals privatization initiatives are not about patient care and saving money. On the contrary, this document outlines a cynical and crass approach that identifies health services that are most likely to withstand legal challenges by health care unions.

Included in this list are those services that the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health Authorities announced they would privatize yesterday.

The document also acknowledges that to quote navigate the minefield -end of quote and implement this government's privatization strategy, health employers will have to embark on a dangerous path.

They'll have to surrender control of vital management and oversight functions to corporations.

There will be no accountability. There will be no outside scrutiny. Health employers won't even be able to screen contract employees.

And in stunning opposition to employer and government claims that they can outline performance measures in contracts this document says that tenders can't even contain "detailed specifications on how the work must be done."

Let's be clear. These reckless moves would not be possible without the government's Bill 29 that tore up health care contracts.

Across British Columbia, thousands of health care workers-mostly women-work hard under very difficult and challenging circumstances to provide quality care services for British Columbians. Most are long-term employees who've dedicated their lives to care for people in need.

These HEU members are determined to protect the public health care system and to defend their jobs and the services they deliver to British Columbians.

Our union is taking the following steps to fight the Campbell Liberals' extreme agenda.

Health care bosses are using an illegal law - Bill 29 - to privatize services. Together with other unions, we've filed a constitutional challenge against that law and will pursue it all the way to the Supreme Court. We now have the full backing of our national union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, to fund the costs of this challenge.

We are putting potential contractors on notice that along with health employers, they will be liable for back wages and benefits when we succeed in this court challenge.

We are in the midst of province-wide votes to approve a wide-ranging Medicare defense plan that includes community and workplace-based actions. The balloting will be concluded by mid-May. These votes are going well, and two weeks ago at this hospital, our members voted 88 per cent in favour of the plan.

British Columbians are growing increasingly anxious about the state of health care under this government - and they should be. Seniors are having to choose between groceries and prescriptions. Interior communities are worried about losing their hospitals. Services for the most vulnerable in our society are getting axed. And thousands of health care workers are within months of losing their jobs.

The very future of medicare in British Columbia is at stake. HEU members are committed to working in their communities to make sure Gordon Campbell doesn't sell off our public health care system to the highest bidder.

-30- Contact: Mike Old, communications officer, 604-456-7039 (direct) or 604-828-6771