Simons welcomes repeal of ‘contract flipping’ bills

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons is welcoming the repeal of two bills passed in the early 2000s that the NDP government claims stripped rights from workers in the health care sector.

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced last week that the government will rescind two existing acts: the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act, passed in 2002 as Bill 29, and the Health Sector Partnerships Agreement Act, which was passed in 2003 as Bill 94.

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In a release announcing the move, the Ministry of Health said it would “improve job security and stability by strengthening the uncertain employment conditions workers have faced for years” because the two bills “stripped affected employees of the workplace protections and rights available to other workers in B.C. and paved the way for years of privatization, contracting out and layoffs.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix said, “With an aging population, now is the time to inspire a new generation of health-sector workers and we need to attract more care aides, community health and hospital workers throughout the province.”

Workers affected by Bill 29 and Bill 94 included care aides, food services and dietary workers, maintenance, laundry, security, information technology and accounting staff in the health care sector.

“We witnessed the largest single layoff of female workers in Canadian history with Bill 29. [Repealing it] was a good day not only for public policy, but for employees and patients. It’s a statement of our interest in protecting the workers and the people they serve,” said Simons, who has advocated for local workers caught up in contract flips in the past, including employees who lost their jobs in 2015 when Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) changed the company contracted to handle housekeeping services from Aramark to Compass Group.

Simons said the impact is worse in rural areas, where “alternative employment is not just down the road.”

“[Contract flipping] is not good for anybody and our communities suffer because it’s a race to low wages and nobody benefits from that,” he said.

Simons also said it’s not clear if the repeal of the old legislation would have any impact on the deal between VCH and Trellis Seniors Services which could see some staff at Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge transfer to the privately-run facility because Dix has already moved to ensure contracted benefits would be protected.

“Those were some of the issues we felt needed to be addressed because of the concern over the privatization,” Simons said.

The repeal will take effect in 2019.

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