Jim Sinclair made a surprise visit at Pine Acres touring the facility and speaking with staff, in light of a contract dispute between the union and the employer, Westbank First Nations.
Sinclair says the liberal government is to blame.
“People wouldn’t be threatned with lockout, they wouldn’t be taking strike votes if the government hadn’t changed the rules and the laws to allow these care homes to pull out of the master bargaining agreement. Now, they can pull out, contract out like at Spring Valley where they are contracting out and destroying working relationships built up over 25 years, in order to cut the wages there and they’re trying to do the same thing here.”
The BCGEU represents the 77 locked-out workers, including laundry, housekeeping, kitchen, dietary and reception staff.
“We’re here and we’re working to make sure that morale remains high and that everyone stands together. The next step is the employers to make,” says BC Government Employees Union (BCGEU), spokesperson Debra Critchley.
The lock-out began at 1:53 p.m., Monday, July 2, after talks with a mediator ended after just one day, and Critchley says residents are already feeling the effects in a number of meaningful ways.
“There was one resident, it was his birthday today and of course, his birthday lunch was cancelled because of the lock-out. We had a cake and sang him ‘Happy Birthday’ out here.”
LPN’s and care aides will remain on the job, but Critchley says it’s not enough.
“The residents are being cared for by our professional staff of LPNs and health care workers. We understand that things are going as well as can be expected. We have members out here that are certainly very concerned over quality health care and services.”
The two sides have been far apart since the WFN asked for sweeping concessions from the workers, including a $4 an hour wage cut, large reductions in vacation time, sick time, cuts to benefits and the elimination of a pension for new hires.
“It’s actually about Bill 29,” says Critchley, who, echoing statements made earlier by BC Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair, blames the provincial government.
“Bill 29 started this and provided the mechanism for the contracting out and the situation that we’re in at Pine Acres. It is about money, and it’s also, I think, really about a disregard for what it really takes to provide seniors with quality health care.”
She also accuses the Liberals of a failure of policy.
“Quality health care for seniors is classified as government policy. A child is an adult’s responsibility, the adult has the provincial government. We need to meet the responsibility and deliver seniors the care that they need and that they deserve.”