With public on their side, health care unions urge Premier to repeal contract-breaking legislation in tonight’s TV address

News release

Polling data shows British Columbians are firmly opposed to Liberals’ draconian Bill 29

British Columbians are strongly opposed to the contract-breaking legislation recently passed by the Liberal government. And with new polling results at hand, unions representing 100,000 health and community social services workers are urging Premier Campbell to announce in his television address tonight that the draconian law — Bill 29 — will be repealed.

“Bill 29 has attracted negative national comment, and clearly raised questions in the public’s mind about whether this government will honour signed contracts,” says George Heyman, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union. “Premier Campbell should take the opportunity on television tonight to restore British Columbians’ as well as international confidence by announcing he’ll repeal Bill 29.”

According to the survey of 506 British Columbians carried out by McIntyre and Mustel Feb. 6-10, a solid majority of British Columbians want the government to revoke the contract-breaking law. Of those polled, 55 per cent said the law should be repealed, while 34 per cent felt it should be left in place. Eleven per cent of respondents had no opinion.

These results “will be extremely encouraging to all British Columbians who are fighting to keep and improve health care services in their communities in the face of Liberal cuts,” says Debra McPherson, president of the B.C. Nurses’ Union. “Clearly the public understands that with Bill 29, Gordon Campbell not only broke the contract with nurses and other health care employees, he broke the contract he made with the people of B.C. during the election campaign to protect and improve health care services.”

Meanwhile in other poll results, only 25 per cent of respondents believe the government’s justification that altering collective agreements was necessary to provide “flexibility” and “put patients first”. On the other hand, 61 per cent feel that by unilaterally altering contracts, the Campbell Liberals were paving the way for hospital closures, service cuts and privatization.

The Liberal government’s new era for health care will result in fewer vital health care services, particularly in rural and remote communities, says Cindy Stewart, president of the Health Sciences Association. “British Columbians didn’t vote for that — they believed the Liberals when they said they would provide health care where and when it was needed.”

And on the fundamental issue of trust, poll findings show 59 per cent of British Columbians feel that Premier Campbell broke his election promise to respect health care workers’ contracts, while 35 per cent said it was the right step to take.

Hospital Employees’ Union spokesperson Chris Allnutt says there’s still time for Campbell to pull back from the brink. “Repealing this unfortunate legislation would help provide some much needed stability for our health care system,” says Allnutt. “It would also help the Premier rebuild the trust of British Columbians — which is a rare commodity for Campbell right now.”

The McIntyre and Mustel poll was commissioned by HEU, and is accurate plus or minus 4.4 per cent, 95 per cent of the time. Allnutt says his union will release further results tomorrow.

Here are the questions:

  • Before the election, Premier Campbell promised to honour negotiated collective agreements covering B.C. health care workers. Last month his government passed a law that makes dramatic changes to these agreements. 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? Broken promise: 59% Right to take this step: 35% DON’T KNOW: 6%

  • The provincial government says it has altered collective agreements for health care workers to provide flexibility and to put patients first. Health care workers and their unions say that by unilaterally altering contracts, the government is paving the way for hospital closures, service cuts and privatization. Which view is closest to your own? Altering collective agreements will provide flexibility and put patients first: 25% Altering collective agreements will lead to hospital closures, service cuts and privatization: 61% DON’T KNOW: 13%

  • Do you think the government should revoke this law? Yes: 55% No: 34% DON’T KNOW: 11%