Strong support voiced for pink-slipped care aides at Willingdon Park rally

More than 75 supporters turned out to a mid-day rally Wednesday to voice strong opposition to the contracting out of 55 care aides — members of the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) — at Willingdon Park Hospital, a private, for-profit seniors’ care facility in Burnaby.

Care aides were the first to speak out, recounting the impact that the loss of their jobs will have not only on their own lives, but also on the health and well being of the frail elderly residents they look after.

“I do everything for the residents. I wash and bathe them, I dress them and feed them, and I advocate for them. We care aides are their eyes and ears,” said a care aide with 23 years of service at Willingdon Park.

“Most of the families of residents that I talk to are really upset about the layoffs,” she added.

Another care aide with 17 years service said, “We have a relationship with residents and family members. If they cry, we cry; if they laugh, we laugh; if they sing, we sing. That’s our family and now it’s breaking apart.”

Long-time Medicare activist Ben Swankey urged people to fight for high quality seniors’ care within the public health care system. He condemned private nursing home owners who are moving to contract out health services at the expense of elderly British Columbians in order to improve profit margins.

HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt said that the union would fight all attempts to contract out the delivery of direct resident care in B.C.’s long-term care facilities.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that no part of our health care system is safe from the provincial government’s privatization plans — including the direct care of B.C.’s seniors,” said Allnutt.

The 35 regular and 20 casual care aides will work their last shifts June 27. Most have worked at Willingdon Park Hospital for more than 15 years.