Security officers are HEU members, says arbitrator

Simon Fraser Health Region is their employer, not Paladin

In a precedent-setting ruling, arbitrator Don Munroe has agreed with the Hospital Employees’ Union’s contention that security guards at four hospitals in the Simon Fraser Health Region are employed by SFHR, the Lower Mainland’s fourth largest employer.

The hotly-contested arbitration grew out of four separate 1998 grievances involving more than 30 security guards at Burnaby, Eagle Ridge, Royal Columbian and Ridge Meadows hospitals. The security officers had been hired by the hospitals through Paladin Security. In its arguments, HEU was successful in showing that the guards do bargaining unit work, are SFHR employees and should be part of the union. The health region contended that the guards were employees of Paladin Security.

HEU contended that the guards belong in the union since they are an integral part of the hospital team and do the same work as unionized employees. The union was successful in proving that the security officers fall under the definition of “true employees” of the health region.

“This is an important victory, and strong local support was paramount in the union’s success in this long struggle,” says HEU assistant secretary-business manager Zorica Bosancic. “It is clear from this ruling that employers cannot contract out union work to avoid treating people fairly. Munroe’s ruling says that employers cannot have the “best of both worlds”: contracting out work while exercising substantial control over the selection, retention and the work of employees.”

The 61-page award will have applications in all or most acute care hospitals in the province, and HEU will continue to ensure that all security services in health care are brought in-house where these workers will be able to enjoy the working conditions, benefits and wages they deserve.

Health care facilities are dangerous places where workers face more on-the-job incidents of force and violence than any other occupation in B.C. “Security officers ensure a safe environment for patients, staff and the public,” says Bosancic. “They deserve the same rights and protections that all HEU members enjoy because they’re an integral and vital part of our health care team.”

Security officers at other hospitals — VGH/UBC, St. Paul’s and St. Vincent’s in Vancouver, Royal Inland in Kamloops — are already covered under the facilities sector collective agreement.