One year later: poll shows public opposition to contract-breaking legislation growing

News release

60 per cent say Bill 29 should be repealed while 55 per cent oppose privatization of support services poll

In the year that passed since the Gordon Campbell Liberals passed legislation tearing up health care collective agreements, a new poll shows that public opinion remains solidly opposed to the move.

The McIntrye and Mustel survey commissioned by the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) shows that 60 per cent of British Columbians believe that the contract-breaking legislation should be repealed, up from 55 per cent in February, 2002. And two-thirds of British Columbians think the premier broke his promise to health care workers and voters by tearing up these contracts, also up from a year ago.

The telephone survey of 403 British Columbians carried out January 10-15 shows that the public isn’t buying the government’s line that Bill 29 is needed to provide flexibility and put patients first. Sixty per cent believe that Bill 29 paves the way for hospital closures, service cuts and privatization.

“A year has passed but the impact of the Campbell Liberals’ act of legislative vandalism continues to register with British Columbians,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “The public recognizes that privatization is the wrong answer for patients. They’re concerned that skilled and experienced health care workers are getting sacked and that our health care system is in chaos.”

The provincial government and its health authorities are using Bill 29 provisions to contract out a range of health services including housekeeping, laundry, food services and security in hospitals and long-term care facilities. More than 5,000 workers are targeted by privatization to lose their jobs by June.

These moves are attracting a lot of public attention there’s 90 per cent awareness of the government’s contracting out plans up 20 per cent from June. And by a solid margin of 55 to 37 per cent, British Columbians oppose privatization of hospital support services. That’s up from 41 per cent opposed in June, 2002.

In a cautionary note to a government banking on a successful Olympic bid, the poll also shows that nearly 70 per cent of British Columbians agree that breaking legally binding contracts will harm investor confidence and hurt B.C.’s international reputation.

“The Campbell Liberals want to put the province on display to the world but the scenery is not too pretty,” says Allnutt. “It includes closed hospitals, a wholesale sell-off of health services to global corporations and the prospect of thousands of skilled, experienced and mostly female workers dumped on the street. The success of our Olympic bid depends on the premier taking a different path.”

Before the election, Premier Campbell promised to honour negotiated collective agreements covering B.C. health care workers. Last year his government passed a law that makes dramatic changes to these agreements. Looking back, some say Premier Campbell has broken his promise to health care workers and voters. Others say he was right to take this step. Which view is closest to your own?

N=403

%

Feb. 2002 %

Premier has broken his promise

265

66

59

Premier was right to take this step

109

27

35

Don’t know

55

14

13

The provincial government says it altered collective agreements for health care workers to provide flexibility and to put patients first. Health care workers and their unions say the government unilaterally altered contracts to pave the way for hospital closures, service cuts and privatization. Which view is closest to your own?

N=403

%

Feb. 2002 %

Paves the way for hospital closures, service cuts and privatization

248

62

61

Provides flexibility and puts patients first

100

25

25

Don’t know

55

14

13

Do you think the government should revoke this law?

N=403

%

Feb. 2002 %

Yes

240

60

55

No

112

28

34

Don’t Know

51

13

11

Have you heard of the B.C. government’s plans to privatize hospital support services like housekeeping, laundry and food services?

N=403

%

Feb. 2002 %

Yes

363

90

70

No

39

10

29

Don’t know

1

-

1

                                               

Do you support or oppose the privatization of hospital support services? PROBE: Strongly or somewhat?

N=403

%

June 2002 %

Strongly support

81

20

22

Somewhat support

68

17

23

Somewhat oppose

61

15

10

Strongly oppose

162

40

31

Don’t know

31

8

15

Total support

149

37

45

Total oppose

223

55

41

A government that breaks legally binding contracts will harm investor confidence and hurt our provinces international reputation. (Test agreement)

N=403

%

Strongly agree

177

44

Somewhat agree

99

25

Somewhat disagree

60

15

Strongly disagree

51

13

Don’t know

16

4

Total agree

276

69

Total disagree

111

28

-30-

For more information or detailed tables, contact Mike Old, communications officer, 604-828-6771 (cell)

The poll is considered accurate to within five per cent, 19 times out of 20.