Make your claims in public or apologize to legislature, HEU challenges labour minister

News release

Graham Bruce is simply not telling the truth, says union

After carefully reviewing comments made last night by Premier Campbell's labour minister during debate on legislation to unilaterally eliminate provisions of health care workers' contracts, the Hospital Employees' Union today challenged Graham Bruce to either step outside the legislature to repeat the same claims or apologize to MLAs for his false and malicious statements.

"Most British Columbians don't realize that MLAs have complete immunity from legal action for comments made in the legislature," says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. "It's a privilege that must be used responsibly.

"But last night Graham Bruce stepped way over the line when he made statements about collective agreements and collective bargaining that were false, malicious and hurtful to all health care workers. He also implied that our 46,000 members had conducted collective bargaining in a dishonest and disreputable way.”

To make matters worse, says Allnutt, Bruce's comments are reported on the web site of the Legislature of B.C., which means they are broadcast to a worldwide audience.

"That's why our union is asking Bruce to either repeat the same comments publicly outside the legislature-where he wouldn't be covered by immunity-or else apologize to MLAs for not telling the truth."

Yesterday, HEU announced that it would initiate a defamation suit against the Premier and other cabinet ministers for making similar false statements.

Allnutt says HEU members are deeply angered and upset by the Liberal's draconian legislation because it represents a betrayal of Premier Campbell's pre-election pledge to respect legally binding and freely negotiated collective agreements.

And he says the contract rollbacks and widespread layoffs that will follow are the first step in the government's plans to close hospitals and drastically cut health care services for British Columbians.

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For more information, please contact:

Stephen Howard, communications director, 604-240-8524 (cell) or Mike Old, communications officer, 604-828-6771(cell)