Information Technologies Integration project at Richmond Hospital demonstrates need for “one contract for all”

HEU members who work in the information systems (IS) department at Richmond Hospital know first-hand just how important the union’s demands for wage and benefit parity and “one contract for all” are to both community and facilities sector workers. Their recent experience with the employer’s Information Technologies Integration (ITI) project clearly demonstrates that facilities sector workers could find themselves community sector workers by the simple act of moving an office.

The Vancouver/Richmond Health Board has been working on a scheme to integrate its information systems with those of Richmond Hospital, a plan that would ultimately have facilities sector hospital workers moved and co-located with community sector health board workers who do the same work. The physical change of worksite could be enough to strip the hospital IS staff of their facilities sector collective agreement and place them under the community sector contract. “The health board’s Information Technologies Integration project is a perfect illustration of why we need one contract for all workers whether they work in hospitals, long-term care facilities or community health,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “As long as `the wall’ between the facilities and community sectors exists, facilities members who work in regional corporate services such as information systems, are vulnerable to having their work moved into the community and their wages adjusted accordingly.”

V/RHB bureaucrats recently put the plan on hold so they could figure out how to include the information systems of the Vancouver Hospital and Health Sciences Centre in their ITI exercise, an added consideration due to VHHSC being brought under the direct jurisdiction of the health board. However, the unions — HEU, CUPE and the Professional Employees’ Association (PEA) — representing affected IS staff at Richmond Hospital and the V/RHB suspect there will be much broader, regional restructuring that could result in the amalgamation of the information systems at the health board and Richmond Hospital, and Vancouver and Children’s and Women’s hospitals.

Allnutt says that the HEU locals at Richmond, Vancouver and Children’s and Women’s hospitals are forming an inter-local sub-committee to develop an information alert campaign to ensure that impacted workers are involved in any further integration efforts, that the enhanced consultation process is fully utilized with an opportunity for the unions to share their ideas, and that all members are kept up-to-date with changes to their workplaces.