Health min­is­ter re­peals laws, say­ing B.C. needs sat­is­fied, se­cure health work­ers

Penticton Herald - - OKANAGAN-SIMILKAMEEN - By The Cana­dian Press

VIC­TO­RIA — Bri­tish Columbia’s New Demo­crat govern­ment wants to roll back two laws that re­sulted in thou­sands of health-care work­ers los­ing their jobs un­der a for­mer Lib­eral govern­ment.

Health Min­is­ter Adrian Dix said Thurs­day the govern­ment in­tends to work with em­ploy­ers, unions and health-fa­cil­ity op­er­a­tors to im­ple­ment one law that im­proves job se­cu­rity and rights for health­sec­tor work­ers.

“I think what we need is a new day in B.C. where we work to­gether as a team,” he said. “We will not be bring­ing the leg­is­la­tion into force im­me­di­ately. Those strate­gies are strate­gies of the past. We are go­ing to work with the broad health care sec­tor.”

A spokesman for the B.C. Care Providers As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents op­er­a­tors of res­i­den­tial care, home care, as­sisted liv­ing and home sup­port ser­vices, said worker short­ages and ag­ing staff are se­ri­ous is­sues fac­ing care providers across B.C.

“We sup­port the in­tent of this leg­is­la­tion,” said spokesman Mike Klassen. “But we do be­lieve there will be costs as­so­ci­ated.”

Dix did not pro­vide de­tailed cost es­ti­mates, but said B.C. is cur­rently 900 care aides short of provin­cial staffing stan­dards and a large ma­jor­ity of care work­ers are at least 55 years old and near re­tire­ment.

B.C. needs a new law that pro­tects and at­tracts health work­ers to en­sure con­sis­tent, qual­ity care is avail­able in a prov­ince with an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, he said.

“We need health-care work­ers, and send­ing the mes­sage that this work is pre­car­i­ous at this time, when we ab­so­lutely need to re­cruit a new gen­er­a­tion of health-care work­ers is the wrong pub­lic pol­icy for today,” Dix said.

He said the for­mer Lib­eral govern­ment in­tro­duced two laws in 2002 and 2003 that led to the lay­offs of more than 8,000 work­ers and al­lowed care-home op­er­a­tors to cut or avoid union­ized labour costs.

The Hos­pi­tal Em­ploy­ees’ Union said in a state­ment that re­peal­ing the laws is a huge move to­wards restor­ing jus­tice and fair­ness for health-care work­ers and re­pair­ing the dam­age to health care de­liv­ery.

The union said the work­ers fired were mostly women and their jobs, which in­cluded hos­pi­tal clean­ing, food ser­vices, laun­dry and other sup­port ser­vices, were con­tracted out.

“Frag­men­ta­tion of health care de­liv­ery, the dis­rup­tion of care re­la­tion­ships, and more pre­car­i­ous and lower paid work is the di­rect re­sult of th­ese mean-spir­ited laws,” HEU sec­re­tary-busi­ness man­ager Jen­nifer White­side said.

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