Laundry, groundskeeping first targets as FHA moves on privatization initiatives

Successful action plan vote will put HEU members in strong position to combat attacks on jobs, Medicare

Without any consultation or public discussion, the Fraser Health Authority is speeding ahead with a sweeping privatization scheme to meet the cutback targets set by the Campbell government that involves contracting-out a number of important support services and layoffs for HEU members.

In an information e-mail to staff issued last week, the FHA announced the first phase of privatizations. “Requests for Proposals” (RFPs) have been issued for laundry services for Chilliwack General Hospital, MSA Hospital in Abbotsford, Mission Memorial Hospital, Hope’s Fraser Canyon Hospital, Heritage Village and Parkholm Lodge and for groundskeeping services throughout the jurisdiction — where they’re not already contracted out that is.

“This is clearly the opening salvo in the Campbell government’s privatization push,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “Our Fraser Valley members are taking note of the employer’s moves as they prepare to vote later this month on a comprehensive fightback plan, including job action, to take on the Campbell agenda.

“Votes conducted to date indicate that members are taking a really strong position to combat attacks on their jobs and Medicare,” says Allnutt. “With more privatization initiatives on the way, we need to be equipped to defend our health care system with every possible mechanism available, including job action.”

The FHA claims it must reduce costs by more than $125 million over three years and that privatizing health support services may be a way to do it due to private sector fiscal advantages such as lower wages and benefits. In a message to staff April 10, interim FHA head Michael Marchbank wrote, “Recent changes in legislation (Bill 29) have made it possible for us to explore these potential savings.”

Allnutt reiterated HEU’s warning to companies that seek to cash in on health care privatization. “When Bill 29 is struck down, through our legal challenge, there will be huge costs that neither health employers nor corporations will be able to insulate themselves from,” he says. “Anyone who seeks to profit or benefit from this draconian legislation does so at their peril.”