Taking it to the streets: HEU stages rally against privatization of hospital laundry services
By Zaynab Mohammed, The Nelson Daily
A crowd of more than 50 people marched down Baker Street in support Hospital Employee Union laundry workers at Kootenay Lake Hospital Saturday morning in Nelson.
The march, which paraded through the Nelson downtown core, concluded at City Hall Courtyard where friends and family joined the rally in the fight against the Interior Health Authority’s plans to privatize hospital laundry services in 11 communities.
HEU workers also received numerous honking of vehicle horns in support of their cause from passing motorists.
“Fighting for Fairness. Fighting for Healthcare,” said one sign in the parade.
“Keep hospital jobs, in our hospital, in our community, Public,” said another sign.
IH is considering using external providers for laundry services, to avoid significant capital costs associated with updating industrial laundry equipment when it needs to be replaced.
“The risk is losing good family supporting community jobs and having them moved to Alberta or the Lower Mainland because they cannot afford to invest $10 Million over the next 10 to 15 years to maintain and replace laundry equipment at 11 hospitals,” said Victor Elkins, Hospital Employee Union (HEU) president.
“They cannot afford not too,” Elkins added.
In November 2014, the IHA informed the HEU of its intentions to determine if it was feasible to have a private company service interior hospital laundry.
In February, IH continued the process to seek Request for Solutions (RFS) from pre-qualified service providers identified through the recent Request for Qualifications process.
HEU said if contracted out, the laundry services and 175 decent, family-supporting jobs – including 17 in Nelson – could be transferred to the Lower Mainland or Alberta, where private contractors bidding on the work are located.
HEU said so far, local governments in Nelson, Kamloops, Vernon, Williams Lake, Summerland and 100 Mile House have raised concerns about privatizing their hospital laundry and the subsequent job losses in their communities.
Nelson workers forwarded a 12,400 person petition to sign to calling our provincial government to keep these jobs in house. That petition was given to NDP MLA’s, tabled the petition in the B.C. legislature.
“We are people that are trying to do a good job and do it efficiently”, shouted one of the two laundry worker speakers at the rally.
Earlier this month, HEU recently released a statement saying rising costs in the Lower Mainland should be raising red flags to the IHA in its bid to privatization services at interior hospitals.
“The people working in our community are an integral part or our front line healthcare,” wrote Nelson/Creston MLA Michelle Mungall.
“Without clean sheets there would be no surgeries, no emergency beds, maternity care and the list goes on.”
“Not to break a functioning service.”