Frigid temperatures no barrier to HEU action in support of talks

Despite unseasonably cold weather in some parts of B.C., front-line health care workers across the province took part in workplace demonstrations Thursday to reinforce their call for direct face-to-face talks with health employers and government to avert thousands of planned lay offs.

From Delta to the Elk Valley and Terrace to Powell River, HEU members arrived for their shifts early and stayed late to participate in information lines.

In Prince George, where morning temperatures plunged to 27 degrees below zero, they were joined by HSA and BCNU members at essential services desks outside the hospital where they signed in with their total years of experience in health care. And when temperatures reached a balmy — 22 degrees at lunch hour, the local held a barbeque for members.

Similar operations were in effect in other northern communities including Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Kitimat and Tumbler Ridge.

In Trail, where a record snowfall was expected, members leafleted hundreds of passing motorists while information lines were erected in other Kootenay communities including Golden and Creston.

On Vancouver Island, HEU members drew attention to imminent job cuts in communities like Parksville, Port Alberni, Cumberland, Nanaimo, Campbell River and Victoria.

And there was a strong showing by HEU members outside health facilities in Okanagan communities including Vernon, Summerland and Penticton.

A freak snowstorm didn’t stop members in Mission or Chilliwack — where 60 per cent of the members staffed information lines — from taking part in Thursday’s actions. And more than 200 workers at the B.C. Cancer Control Agency in Vancouver — half the HEU membership at that site — gathered outside to document their 2700 collective years of health care experience and to don pink ribbons to symbolize employer plans to lay them off. Similar lines at Lion’s Gate Hospital drew 300 HEU members.

At Children’s and Women’s Hospital, a noon rally drew support for HEU members targeted by privatization from physicians, civic politicians and women’s rights advocates.

“This government’s privatization schemes will result in the loss of thousands of skilled, experienced workers — most of them women — from our health care system,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.

“On Thursday, in every corner of the province, HEU members drew attention to the urgent need to find alternatives to squandering the public’s investment in these workers.

“We’ll leave no stone unturned in our efforts to work with employers and government to find these solutions,” adds Allnutt.