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Staff at 2 B.C. care homes stop working for 1 day as contract negotiations escalate to job action

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After years of working without a contract, staff at two B.C. long-term care homes walked off the job for several hours on Friday, demanding a fair deal from their employer.

The six-hour work stoppage kicked off at 1 p.m. at Delta View Care Centre and Salmon Arm’s Pioneer Lodge, two of seven long-term care facilities in B.C. that are operated by the non-profit Good Samaritan Canada.

The striking workers are among 1,100 members of the Hospital Employees’ Union who are employed by Good Samaritan Canada and have been without a contract since March 31, 2020.

Members voted 98 per cent in favour of a strike back in July, but this is the first time HEU has escalated to job action with this employer since the collective bargaining process began more than two years ago.

Meena Brisard, HEU’s secretary-business manager, says the goal of the summer strike vote was to get the employer back to the negotiating table, but the two sides have been at an impasse since.

Speaking to CTV News on the picket line Friday, Brisard described the bargaining process so far as slow and disrespectful. Of particular concern, she said, was that Good Samaritan has demanded contracting-out provisions be removed from the collective agreement.

“That would mean that these workers could get fired and they could bring in private workers to come in,” she explained.

POLL: NEARLY HALF OF B.C. CARE AIDES PLAN TO QUIT SOON

Many care aides across the province are struggling with their working conditions, according to a recent poll by HEU.

After surveying nearly 800 care aides in B.C., the union found 48.5 per cent of respondents say they’ll likely quit their job in the next two years.

The same number is considering leaving the health care sector altogether.

One of the main factors contributing to the planned exodus is time, with more than half of workers saying they don’t have enough to meet residents’ care needs.

Aides also describe the work as gruelling, mentally and physically, with eight out of 10 reporting they’ve been victims of on-the-job violence and aggression. Nearly half of those polled say they’ve had to take time off work after being injured on shift.

Brisard acknowledges the province has taken steps to improve working conditions in long-term care homes, such as topping up wages during the peak of the pandemic, and by bringing thousands of new care aides into the system through the Health Care Access Program.

However, she wants to see the NDP government fulfill its 2020 election pledge to restore standard wages, benefits and working conditions, which were axed by the former Liberal government.

“We have inherited from the previous government a fragmented long-term care sector with a wide range of working and caring conditions,” Brisard said after the HEU poll went public.

“As B.C.’s seniors’ advocate, legislative committees and others have pointed out, there is a lack of accountability for public funding that is intended for front-line care.”

MORE ACCOUNTABILITY NEEDED

The sector receives nearly $2-billion in funding each year, but the seniors’ advocates office says B.C. needs to be more transparent and accountable when it comes to how that money is being spend.

A recent review of 181 long-term care facilities’ financial reports found significant spending differences between non-profit and for-profit providers.

It also highlighted that profits in this sector have increased by 113 per cent over the past five years, far exceeding the growth in other expenses, including staff wages.

  

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