USW Local 2009 welcomes the BC Government’s announcement to bring many of our cleaning and dietary health care workers back into BC hospitals. The BC NDP made a number of important commitments in the last election campaign including bringing contracted out hospital housekeeping and dietary workers back under the direct employment of health authorities.

Your Union representatives have been fighting for many months urging the government to act. We continued to pressure the government to do the right thing for all of our healthcare workers. With your help and support, signing petitions, phoning MLA’s, demonstrations etc. we have finally made the government listen.

Adrian Dix, Minister of Health announced yesterday “Beginning this fall, the Province will serve notice under the terms of 21 commercial service contracts and start a phased approach to repatriating housekeeping and food-service contracts.”

Since 2003, British Columbia has witnessed the most sweeping privatization of health support services in Canadian history. More than 8,500 public sector jobs were eliminated and the work contracted out. Pay rates for the affected positions have been cut by more than 40 per cent. These front-line health care workers earning less today than they did 20 years ago. Since privatization, these members of the healthcare team have been forced to work outside B.C.’s public health care system for private corporations that enjoy handsome profits while paying the lowest of wages to workers. These low wages allowed in part for Health Authorities to provide much deserved wage increases to doctors and nurses. Now is the time to look after the other frontline healthcare workers.

The announcement to repatriate approximately 4,000 of these workers, including hundreds of USW Local 2009 members, is welcome news and is clearly an important step in bringing basic fairness to public health care in our province.

The act of repatriation will immediately address inequality and enhance working conditions for employees in health-care facilities, ensuring that workers will have the benefits, wages and working conditions that they deserve to be able to help patients.

Scott McRitchie, Financial Secretary of Local 2009 offered praise “During this pandemic we have witnessed healthcare workers coming in every day and stepping up, doing what needs to be done without hesitation. They have the hardest jobs in the world at the best of times, and through all this, they continued to provide the care and support to patients who were incredibly sick with the virus.”

As British Columbians we should all feel incredibly humbled by both their professionalism and compassion. It should also remind us how lucky we are to have our public health care system.

Evidence has shown that employees who feel secure and safe in their jobs provide higher quality care for people, and in turn employers can attract and retain staff at a higher and more consistent level.

Al Bieksa, President of Local 2009 in response to the announcement stated, “This decision by Government is a giant win for healthcare workers but is an equal win for BC citizens. It’s the right thing to do – for patients, for workers, for safer hospitals and better care. USW Local 2009 looks forward to working in solidarity with its Union partners in ensuring all union members are reintegrated back into public health with the least bit of disruption.”

Government is currently working with unions, health authorities and contractors on a phased-in plan that allows employers to address this change in a way that strengthens and enhances the health system’s services.

We will continue to provide our members with regular updates as details are shared with us.

Thank you again for your determination and support.

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