Thousands demand health talks at Vancouver rally

News release

More than 2,000 health care workers rallied in Vancouver Saturday afternoon to demand that the provincial government work with their union to avert massive lay-offs expected over the next few months.

Hospital Employees’ Union members and supporters marched from Library Square to the Vancouver Art Gallery to protest government plans to contract out the work of more than 5,000 hospital staff — more than 90 per cent of them women — by June.

It would be the largest mass lay-off of women workers in Canadian history.

“Today, I’m renewing my call to government and health authorities to engage in direct face-to-face talks with us,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.

“We need to put the chaos and confrontation of the past year behind us and work to find solutions that protect public health care and safeguard the public’s investment in a skilled, experienced workforce.”

Last year, government projected it could save $70 million by privatizing health care services like housekeeping, laundry and food services after passing legislation that removed longstanding protections against contracting out from health care collective agreements.

But Allnutt says that those savings will evaporate in the face of corporate profit-taking and the additional cost of new bureaucracies that are being put in place to monitor private contractors.

“And there’s a cost to be paid by patients too,” says Allnutt. “When 5,000 skilled, experienced workers are put out the street, will that make the care patients receive better, or worse?”

Today’s rally also heard from Vancouver deputy mayor Tim Louis, B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair, B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union president George Heyman and from front-line workers from across B.C.

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Contact: Mike Old, communications officer, 604-828-6771 (cell)