Seven of ten British Columbians put quality care before cost cutting in contract talks, according to new poll

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By a margin of 69 per cent, British Columbians believe that contract rollbacks for health care workers will further erode the quality of care and result in fewer services to the public, according to a new Mustel Group/Hospital Employees’ Union poll.

Just one in five (20 per cent) agree with health employers and government that wage and other contract rollbacks are necessary in order for government to achieve its fiscal targets.

“This poll reflects the public’s day-to-day interactions with the health care system,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “A system where job losses and service cuts have put a severe strain on the health services upon which they depend.

“And British Columbians have no illusions about what the impact of further attacks on the wages and benefits of health care workers would be on health care — lower quality care and less access to services.”

Contract talks for a new collective agreement covering 43,000 hospital and long-term care workers have stalled over the Health Employers Association of B.C.’s refusal to put contracting out and layoffs on hold during negotiations.

HEABC is asking workers for nearly $900 million in wage and benefit concessions over three years, is unwilling to put employment security on the table and has issued more than 2,500 layoff notices since bargaining began in early January.

More than 6,000 workers have lost their jobs in hospitals and long-term care facilities since the Gordon Campbell government passed legislation shredding health care contracts in 2002.

The question was put to 491 adult British Columbians as part of a broader Mustel Group poll conducted April 8 — 16. It’s considered to be accurate to within 4.4 per cent, 19 out of 20 times.

Here’s the question: Health care workers are currently negotiating with government and health employers for a new collective agreement.

The government is demanding that workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities take pay cuts and other contract rollbacks so that government can meet their fiscal targets.

Health care unions say that thousands of workers have already been laid off as a result of government policy and that more contract rollbacks will further erode the quality of care and result in fewer services to the public.

Which do you agree with more? (N=491)

Government 20.3 % Health care unions 68.8 Refused 3.5 Don’t know 7.5

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