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Union wants council to help protect workers and clients at New Horizons

It is “incumbent” upon city council to take action to protect staff and workers at New Horizons, a Hospital Employees Union member told council Tuesday night.

Barb Biley, vice-president of the union’s North Island chapter, said the union expects council to take a stand, following reports of poor working conditions at the seniors care home.

“We ask that Campbell River city council take action to demand that Island Health investigate whether the provisions of the Community Care and Assisted Living Act…are being followed at New Horizons and that council take whatever actions are within its power to prevent contracting out and contract flipping,” Biley said. “Campbell River prides itself on being a community that takes care of its seniors and wants to attract retirees. Therefore it is incumbent on the community, including city council, to act to defend seniors in care at New Horizons and the workers who provide that care.”

Since Park Place laid off all of its union staff in April and contracted out its staffing to Carecorp Seniors Care, there have been reports of improper care of seniors and staffing shortages.

“In the month since the changeover, several of the long-time workers who accepted positions with Carecorp have quit due to the unacceptable working conditions,” Biley said. “Besides workers that have been hired by Carecorp to work at New Horizons, it is our understanding that Carecorp has flown in some workers from the Interior, housing them at the Anchor Inn, and is contracting with at least one other private agency, Nurse Next Door, to provide some staff.”

Biley said the union has filed a complaint with the labour board requesting it find Park Place in breach of several sections of the labour code and order the re-instatement of all the laid off employees, some of which were hired back but at a lower wage and with the loss of their seniority.

Biley said there are reports residents are going without baths, timely meals and basic necessities due to a lack of experienced staff.

The husband of one New Horizons resident has publicly said meals are late and the facility is in chaos.

In January, the Hospital Employees’ Union asked Island Health to intervene to stop the layoffs but was told Island Health would not step in as long as Park Place met its contract with the health authority.

Biley said the union’s last resort was to turn to city council.

“We are here because we believe that it is all of our responsibility to speak out when the lives of those who are dependent are put in danger and harm is being done to vulnerable members of our community, and when the rights of the workers who care for our seniors are violated,” Biley said. “We expect city council to take a stand…and work through the UBCM (Union of British Columbia Municipalities) for concerted action by municipalities across the province.”

So far, Larry Samson is the only councillor to publicly speak out about the situation at New Horizons. At a rally in late February, Samson encouraged the community to step up, saying that if people just stand by and watch, it will only get worse.

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