HEU scores Bill 29 breakthrough, as employees of multinational private health corp. vote to join union

News release

The Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) says workers have made an important breakthrough in the fight for working people and for quality health care services after employees of the world’s largest health services corporation voted yesterday to join the union.

The 23 new HEU members work for the British company Compass, the world’s largest private health care service provider with annual revenues of close to $23 billion. They provide dietary, housekeeping and laundry services at Renfrew Care Centre, a government funded, private, for-profit long-term care facility in East Vancouver.

In late July, the owners of Renfrew — Retirement Concepts Ltd.— used Bill 29, the Campbell government’s contract breaking legislation, to fire more than 40 food service, housekeeping and laundry staff and privatized their jobs to Compass. None of the former workers were rehired by Compass, which brought in an entirely new workforce with wages as low as $9 an hour.

“We welcome these new members and congratulate them for the courage they’ve shown in joining our union,” says Allnutt. “Their priorities for a first contract are for basic improvements like reasonable workloads, safer working conditions, better pay, and higher care standards for Renfrew residents.

“This is an important breakthrough for the labour movement in the fight against contract breaking, privatization, wage rollbacks, and declining service quality,” says Allnutt. And the HEU leader acknowledges the support and solidarity of two other unions in the successful organizing drive: the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, and the Hotel Restaurant and Culinary Employees Union Local 40.

“We look forward to working constructively with Compass to negotiate a fair first contract that addresses workers’ concerns and that restores the quality of services provided to Renfrew residents.”

Meanwhile, Allnutt says HEU will continue to work with its members who were fired from Renfrew to demonstrate how the Liberal government’s legislation that paves the way for the privatization of services and the sacking of skilled and experienced workers is bad for patients and residents.

-30- Contact: Stephen Howard, communications director, 604-240-8524