Health Minister Adrian Dix and Mental Health Minister Judy Darcy wait to introduce bill repealing measures that allow seniors care home operators to get out of union contracts, Nov. 8, 2018. Darcy headed the Hospital Employees’ Union during a long court battle with the B.C. government. (Twitter)

B.C. VIEWS: Seniors home worker discrimination finally ending

Health Minister Adrian Dix righting a serious wrong

This column has been hard on the B.C. NDP government’s favours to big labour in recent weeks.

Their union monopoly on public construction is a discriminatory sell-out that will be costing taxpayers for years to come, and the likely elimination of secret ballot votes is another bid to protect unions that are dwindling away in today’s global economy.

But this week I’ll offer my appreciation to Health Minister Adrian Dix, who has won a battle he has been fighting for more than a decade, restoring union successor rights for employees of senior care homes and related jobs. This is to end “contract flipping,” where one contractor takes over from another and gets out from under the union agreement, usually with the Hospital Employees’ Union or the B.C. Government Employees’ Union.

Here’s how BCGEU president Stephanie Smith explained the problem that has plagued one of the lowest-wage, female-dominated employment groups in the province since 2002:

“The practice of contract flipping typically involves mass layoffs and forces workers to re-apply for jobs that they have, in many cases, already been performing for years. When this occurs, existing collective agreements and union representation are not carried over, and contracts offered by the new service provider typically offer lower wages, reduced benefits and weakened rights for employees. In short, contract flipping is a strategy for suppressing wages and weakening employee rights in the workplace.”

Dix introduced legislation last week to repeal two provisions that survived the B.C. Liberal government’s long court battle with the HEU, making employees “second class citizens” as contract-flipping continued into this year.

“There are care homes such as Inglewood on the North Shore and Nanaimo Seniors Village that have seen their contracts flipped multiple times,” Dix said. “In other words, work is contracted out, the workers come together, they organize a union, they negotiate with the employer, in this case the contractor. Then the contractor is changed, salaries are reduced and they have to go through the process again and again and again.”

I recall the bitter debate when this move was made by a newly elected Gordon Campbell government with an overwhelming mandate, the NDP reduced to two East Vancouver seats. One B.C. Liberal MLA noted that under generous contracts signed with the previous NDP government, an HEU employee was entitled to a paid day off to take his or her dog to the veterinarian.

No one at that time anticipated the repeated use of contract flipping in senior care homes, just as no one anticipated the sale of Retirement Concepts, a Vancouver-based chain of contract care homes, to a state-linked Chinese company that’s acquiring prime real estate around the world.

What the Campbell government should have seen coming was that this crackdown on a ballooning health care budget came at the worst possible time for senior care. Baby boomers are stepping down, and breaking down, in huge numbers, and there aren’t enough people who will take care of them under the working conditions they face.

Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie put numbers to it in B.C.’s first comprehensive survey of seniors homes last year. It showed that most don’t meet the province’s standard of just over three hours care per resident, per day. Help in the bathroom is one of the biggest shortages, and Dix estimates that another 900 care aides are needed to reach the standard.

Not enough people are willing to do this job, and long-term workers are retiring themselves.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Brind’Amour/Nugent-Hopkins golf tourney in Campbell River raises $122,000

Fundraiser for cystic fibrosis has raised roughly $1.8 million since it started 24 years ago

Elusive ‘ghost whale’ surfaces near Campbell River

Local ecotourism operator captures images of the rare white orca

Campbell River gallery provides taste of Syria for many senses

Afternoon event features music, dance, food and more from the Middle Eastern Country

Campbell River teen on the mend a year later

Jonah Shankar’s treatment for brain tumour involved trips to UK

Strathcona Park Wilderness Centre open for the summer

Winter is receding at Paradise Meadows, and it is time to start… Continue reading

Campbell River gallery provides taste of Syria for many senses

Afternoon event features music, dance, food and more from the Middle Eastern Country

Otters devour 150 trout at Kootenay hatchery

The hatchery has lost close to 150 fish in the past several months

B.C. church’s Pride flag defaced for second time in 12 days

Delta’s Ladner United Church says it will continue to fly the flag for Pride month

Police probe report of shooting as Raptors rally continues

There were reports of a woman being injured at the event that celebrates the team’s NBA title win

Oil and gas sector cautious as deadline on Trans Mountain decision nears

Trudeau government expected to announce whether it will approve pipeline for second time on Tuesday

Skipping school costs a dozen B.C. students chance at a new car

Cowichan’s Jared Lammi showed up and won $5,000 cheque toward vehicle, but he can’t drive

BC Ferries adds extra and late night summer sailings

Seasonal adjustments to sailing times also in effect on many routes

Man suffers burns, dog dies in fire in Nanaimo

Structure burns down on Clifford Road property in Cedar

Province comes through with funding for Charleigh Fales

Lake Cowichan toddler only one in B.C. diagnosed with CLN2 Batten disease

Most Read