Sally Ann’s head honcho turns back on workers

Lieut-Colonel Don Copple, Divisional Commander of the Salvation Army, refused to meet today with about a dozen health care workers from Sunset Lodge, a Victoria seniors’ care home run by the Sally Ann, who showed up at the organization’s Burnaby headquarters to talk to him about the contracting out of their jobs. Instead he chose to talk to the RCMP about throwing them out of the building.

The workers, who are set to lose their jobs in two days, had an earlier request for a meeting with the organization’s top decision-maker ignored. So they felt they had no choice but to show up at the Sally Ann’s head office and demand a meeting face-to-face.

While supporters gathered outside, the Sunset Lodge workers, including local chair Brenda Jordison, asked to see Copple.

Minutes later he appeared on the staircase leading into the reception area. Looking down on the health care workers, he informed them that while they were free to assemble outside, they were not permitted inside the building and that he had called the police.

He repeatedly refused to meet with the workers, telling them that the decision to lay them off had been made, it was a “done deal” and it was no use trying to talk to him. He continued to refuse to meet with them for the next 20 minutes. “Most of us have worked for you for years,” said Jordison, “We have been the ones to care for the people who come to you for help. We think you owe us at least five minutes of your time.”

Outside, HEU president Fred Muzin addressed supporters, questioning the principles of the Salvation Army when it lays off more than 50 long-time workers in order to balance their budget — when workers had proposed alternatives that would preserve their jobs and the continuity and quality of care for the 100 seniors who live at the lodge.

“You have the power to reverse the decision to contract out these jobs — at least to delay it long enough to sit down and discuss the proposals they have made,” said HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt, who along with Victoria Labour Council secretary-treasurer Colin Graham had accompanied the workers into the building.

Copple replied that he would not break contracts that he had signed with the private company, but was silent when asked about breaking contracts with his own employees.

Later, the workers joined the many supporters rallying outside. B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair and B.C. Nurses’ Union president Deborah McPherson condemned the Sally Ann for its actions that will hurt not only the nurses, care aides, housekeepers, dietary and clerical staff that are losing their jobs, but the seniors who depend on them.