Hospital workers vote for privatization settlement
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, February 22, 2008 4:07PM PST
Members of a B.C. hospital union have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a multimillion-dollar settlement with the provincial government over privatization of health-care services.
The Liberals were forced to make the adjustments after a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last June, which struck down legislation imposed by the government in 2002.
Judy Darcy, spokeswoman for the 43,000-member Hospital Employees' Union, said Friday that the settlement is good news for patients and the future of public health care.
"It now means that we have rights restored that we had previously,'' Darcy said. "We've spent 14 weeks in very tough negotiations to get that point.''
Members of the union voted 94 per cent in favour of the settlement, which resolves an ongoing labour dispute over government-imposed legislation six years ago led to the layoff of more than 9,000 health-care workers.
The new agreement includes $75 million in compensation and retraining funds. The bulk of that money _ $70 million _ will go toward health-care workers affected by the past legislation while $5 will benefit those who will be laid off as a result of contracting out in the future.
Darcy said workers whose jobs were contracted out can submit a claim for compensation.
Member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees have yet to vote on a separate but similar settlement with the province worth $10 million in retraining funds.
The amount of the payment will be determined by a joint committee of union and health employers chaired by arbitrator Vince Ready.
Workers laid off because of contracting out will also have opportunities to apply for job vacancies in health authorities throughout British Columbia, Darcy said.
New legislation will be introduced in the spring sitting of the legislature after the court gave the government one year to deal with the repercussions of the ruling.
Darcy said health employers will have to consult workers before privatizing areas like hospital housekeeping, food services and seniors' care.
"One of the things privatization has done, aside from being very harmful as far as the quality of service and the quality of care, is it's also created a new low-paid workforce and that leads to huge turnover in cleaning services, in food services,'' Darcy said.