Layoff notices issued at Campbell River seniors care facility

118 unionized Hospital Employees Union members have been given 90-day layoff notices

The owner of the New Horizons seniors care facility in Campbell River gave their employees a nasty surprise Monday.

The company informed them it is going to contract out operation of the facility and gave approximately 118 workers a 90-day layoff notice, meaning they will be out of a job come April. The move was a surprise to the Hospital Employees Union which represents the workers.

“It was a bit of a surprise,” said HEU spokesperson Mike Old.

Park Place, owners of the facility, described the move as a necessary step to manage costs at the complex care home.

Island Health funds new Horizons Community of Care. The health authority determines the care and service standards as well as the amount of funding operators are allotted.

According to a New Horizons press release, in line with the B.C. government’s directive to control costs, Island Health is looking at all operators to deliver the care and services within their assigned funding. In order to avoid what is anticipated to have been a significant increase in labour costs and/or service disruption – if a new HEU contract was negotiated – New Horizons has opted to contract out to an “experienced service partner.”

“The unfortunate timing of the 90-day layoff notices was determined by the Hospital Employees Union (HEU) contract and provincial legislation,” a Park Place statement says.

These two provisions guide the timing and process by which New Horizons can move to contracting out once the current HEU contract expires in April. Given the notification requirements, layoff notices had to be issued by the end of December.

“Contracting out is one of the few options we have to manage costs, which are increasing each year,” said Ian West, vice president of operations. He said that since 2004, an increasing number of B.C. care homes have chosen to contract out as an alternative to cutting care hours or jobs.

“This is the best way to manage costs in a way that has the least impact on both our residents and our employees,” West said. “As always, our primary goal is to provide the best possible care.”

The HEU’s Old said the move raises concern not only amongst its members who will be out of work but also for family members of residents in the seniors facility.

“It’s a stressful time for our members and I think there will be some concern for family members (of residents),” Old said. “We have no idea what the employer’s intent is in terms of maintaining the quality of care.”

Old said the move appears to be a business decision.

“They’re trying to find a way to make more money out of this facility,” he said.

The union will be meeting with its members next week to discuss what to do about the situation. Old said the company is contractually-obligated to discuss alternatives with union members but did not want to speculate what those alternatives could be. Park Place bought the 94-bed New Horizons facility last summer.