Talks stall as health employers continue to fire workers
Collective bargaining for 43,000 hospital and long-term care workers across B.C. has stalled over health employers’ refusal to put a hold on layoffs and contracting out during negotiations and their continued push for almost a quarter billion dollars in concessions, say health unions.
During a second day of talks since health workers voted 89 per cent in favour of job action, the Health Employers Association of B.C. refused to suspend current health privatization plans or put any current layoff notices on hold. Instead HEABC said they would not initiate any new privatization ventures for up to seven days.
“This is a meaningless gesture that does nothing to improve the negative bargaining climate,” says Hospital Employees’ Union secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt who speaks for the multi-union bargaining association. “And it’s an insult both to the thousands of women and men who are facing imminent job loss and to the communities that depend on their services.”
Allnutt says HEABC introduced new wage concessions this week that mean additional wage cuts for 200 job classifications and more cuts for long-term disability claimants.
“Frankly, we’re disappointed and frustrated with health employers’ response this week,” says Allnutt. “Clearly, they’re not listening to those working on health care’s front lines.
“Our unions stand ready to return to the bargaining table when health employers show they’re serious about negotiating. In the meantime, we’ll be reporting out to our members.”
Since bargaining began on January 9, more than 2,500 workers have received layoff notices. Just this past Tuesday, notice of pending layoff was issued to support staff at Coquitlam’s Belvedere Care Centre. And today was the last day of work for 35 HEU members at the Rainbow Gardens care facility in Port Alberni.
HEU represents about 40,000 workers affected by the contract talks. Ten other unions in the bargaining association including the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union and the International Union of Operating Engineers represent the remaining 3,000 workers.