Health minister says HEU members will be impacted by “a ton” of government legislation next year

Health minister Colin Hansen says that the Campbell government’s agenda for next year includes “a ton of legislation that will affect HEU members.”

Hansen’s warning came at a Nov. 7 meeting with HEU’s financial secretary Mary LaPlante, president Fred Muzin and secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.

Earlier in October, labour minister Graham Bruce had openly mused that government was looking at changing labour laws and collective agreement provisions to make it easier for government to contract out health care services like housekeeping and dietary.

But Allnutt warned Hansen that trying to legislate rollbacks in contract provisions that protect workers and health care services would be fought by HEU.

“Using legislation to attack health care workers and the services they provide for British Columbians clearly crosses the line,” says Allnutt. “With the Liberals moving to eliminate regional health boards and community health councils, the only thing left protecting health services for British Columbians is our collective agreement.”

Like Premier Campbell, Hansen said he believed governments should respect collective agreements.

Meanwhile, the HEU leaders and Hansen had a frank exchange of views on other issues including the proposal for a private hospital in Abbotsford. Allnutt warned the health minister that based on the British experience with similar projects, the private finance initiative would be an expensive boondoggle for B.C.

Hansen tried to downplay government’s involvement in the project. He acknowledged that the public debate sparked when HEU released secret government plans for the project was “healthy.” And in a sign that there may be dissension in cabinet about pushing forward with the private hospital project in Abbotsford, Hansen says these so-called private-public partnerships are “the flavour of the month” that need to be “looked at critically.”

HEU also presented the minister with a copy of the study commissioned by the union that dispels the right-wing myth that health care support workers perform jobs that are no different from hotel workers. Hansen said he’s never supported the arguments made by the Fraser Institute and other right-wingers that health care workers should be paid the same as hotel workers. “I have difficulty with the hospital/hotel comparison,” the minister said. “I have never used the comparisons.”