HEU to launch legal action against Premier, cabinet ministers

Bill 29 a grotesque abuse of power, HEU members fed up with Liberals false and malicious smears of their contract

Serving notice that all 46,000 members of the Hospital Employees’ Union will be working with others in their communities across the province to fight the Campbell government’s impending hospital closures, service cuts and draconian contract rollbacks, HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt yesterday served notice that his union is initiating immediate legal action against the Premier and cabinet ministers.

Speaking at a Victoria press conference Saturday afternoon, Allnutt said HEU members are fed up with the Liberal’s malicious and false statements that the legislation simply overturns secret, sweetheart deals reached at the last minute with the former NDP government. “That’s why I’ve asked HEU’s legal counsel to immediately initiate legal action against Campbell and his cabinet ministers for defamation,” Allnutt said.

Calling the Liberal’s legislation to unilaterally change freely negotiated, legally binding contracts the “hospital closure enabling act,” Allnutt said that the legislation gives government the right to shut down hospitals with only 60 days notice.

Together with HEU’s lawyer Jim Quail, Allnutt also outlined the next tactic in the union’s counterattack against Campbell: a Supreme Court Charter and Rights challenge to the rollbacks. “The legislation is a grotesque abuse of power,” said Quail, that prohibits unions from even talking about critical workplace issues—like layoffs, service cuts, severance, bumping and contracting out—with employers.

“The Liberals are operating under the illusion that they can ignore fundamental rights, but they can’t hide from the laws of the land,” said Quail.

In outlining the defamation suit, Allnutt pointed out that many of the provisions under attack by the Liberals go back decades—like bumping which was first negotiated in 1968 when WAC Bennett was Premier, or contracting out first negotiated in 1982. And he pointed out that the 1993 Employment Security Agreement was freely and openly negotiated, and most recently reaffirmed in the 2001-2004 collective agreement when employers and union members overwhelmingly ratified it.

Meanwhile, in a warning to the Health Employers Association of B.C., Allnutt said HEU will hold employers liable for all damages to health care workers and B.C. communities every time administrators refuse to adhere to legally binding collective agreements.

“I make the following commitment,” he said, that all 46,000 HEU members will be working in their communities right across the province to build coalitions and a peoples’ opposition to prevent the Campbell government from closing hospitals, cutting services and gutting legally binding contracts.”