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Deadline extended, a bit, for New Horizons employees

It isn’t much, but employees of New Horizons care home have at least one more week of guaranteed work.

Approximately 120 unionized employees of the extended care facility on 14th Avenue were informed Dec. 30 they would be laid off this spring. The layoffs were expected to occur April 21, but this week employees received a letter telling them their final day will be April 30.

“It’s still causing a great deal of anxiety for our members,” said Mike Old of the Hospital Employees Union which represents the vast majority of the employees.

Last September, the 94-bed complex was sold to Park Place Seniors Living. It’s a private company owned by Al and Jenny Jina of Vancouver who operate 17 care facilities in B.C. and Alberta.

However, the facility is still funded by Island Health. The health authority determines the care and service standards as well as the amount of funding operators are allotted.

The sticking point is the contract between the union and the employer which expires at the end of April. According to Park Place spokesman Ian West, the province has instructed care home operators to tighten their budgets. As a result, Park Place has chosen to hire a contractor to fill the positions which may or may not include the current employees.

“Contracting out is one of the few options we have to manage costs, which are increasing each year,” said West, vice-president of operations. “This is the best way to manage costs in a way that has the least impact on both our residents and our employees.”

Old said the move will lead to less pay and benefits for employees, who are in this field because they enjoy helping others and not “to make a fortune.”

“This is happening all over (B.C.)…but the concern is this hasn’t happened on the North Island before…families are worried about the continuity of care for their loved ones,” he added.

The union continues to meet with employees to discuss any updates and strategies. Old will also meet with Park Place representatives for further discussions.

“Under the collective agreement the employer is required to speak with us,” he said.

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