HEU calls for disclosure of privatization documents in bid to restart talks

News release

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Health unions are demanding that health employers back up claims that they can’t put privatization and layoffs on hold while collective bargaining takes place.

Contract talks for 43,000 hospital and long-term care workers have stalled over the Health Employers Association of B.C.’s refusal to stop the clock on layoff notices and suspend ongoing discussions on contracting out health services.

Hospital Employees’ Union secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt says HEABC should publicly disclose the provisions of all relevant documents — including deals they’ve inked with private corporations — to justify their position that they can’t put contracting out on hold.

“We don’t buy health employers’ claim that they’re powerless to stop privatization while we bargain,” says Allnutt, who speaks for the multi-union bargaining association.

“They haven’t produced a shred of evidence to show that they can’t suspend notice periods for those facing layoff or put current privatization discussions on hold while talks take place.

“HEABC simply needs to show some leadership and good faith on this issue so that we can get back to the table and engage in productive negotiations,” says Allnutt.

The B.C. government has suspended the Coquihalla highway and liquor store privatization while other schemes where a private sector contractor has been announced — as in the sale of B.C. Rail and the contracting out of Medical Services Plan administration — are currently under review.

More than 2,500 workers have received layoff notice since bargaining began in early January and 6,000 workers have already lost their jobs to contracting out since the provincial government passed contract-breaking legislation in 2002.

HEU represents about 40,000 workers affected by the contract talks. Ten other unions in the bargaining association including the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union and the International Union of Operating Engineers represent the remaining 3,000 workers.