900 workers targeted for layoff as bargaining begins for B.C. hospital and long-term care workers

News release

Unions say timing of pink slips "provocative," call for freeze on privatization during talks

B.C.'s largest health employer has rejected a proposal by unionized food services workers to stop privatization of hospital dietary services and will begin issuing pink slips to 900 workers starting next week.

The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority told employees Thursday that it is in negotiations with a private corporation to which it will contract out its food service operations.

The move comes as health unions and employers meet later today in Burnaby to begin bargaining for a new province-wide collective agreement for more than 40,000 health services and support workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Hospital Employees' Union secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt says he's disappointed that the VCHA rejected the bid by workers to keep food services in-house and called the timing of the announcement provocative.

"I urge B.C.'s health employers to put this and all other privatization plans on hold while province-wide talks are in progress," says Allnutt.

"It would be an important step towards restoring trust in the bargaining process. That trust has been seriously undermined by government legislation that ripped up the current collective agreement in this sector."

The bid by unionized food services workers would have saved the authority $20 million. The layoffs will affect workers at Vancouver General, UBC, Richmond and Lion's Gate Hospitals and other facilities.

Allnutt is the chief bargaining spokesperson for the multi-union bargaining association which also includes the B.C. Government and Services Employees' Union, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 882. and several other unions.

B.C.'s hospital and long-term care employers are represented by the Health Employers Association of B.C.

-30- Contact: Mike Old, communications officer, 604-828-6771 (cell)

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