Guardian HOSPITAL EMPLOYEES’ UNION
SPRING 2018 • VOL. 36 • NO. 1
E C N E L O I V e sto p t h #increaseSTAFFING # reasonableWORKLOADS
APRIL 28 NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING
FOR WORKERS KILLED, INJURED OR DISABLED ON THE JOB
AGREEMENT NUMBER 40007486
RETURN TO The Guardian 5000 North Fraser Way Burnaby, B.C. V5J 5M3
WORKLOAD OVERLOAD HEU members are toiling in a system that is literally bursting at the seams.
Guardian HOSPITAL EMPLOYEES’ UNION
How it all began
Restoring public health care New investments mark turning point in B.C. history | 3
Labour Code review HEU calls for bold changes to protect workers | 10
10 COLUMNS Viewpoint
NDP is making life alot more affordable | 6
National Day of Mourning renews committment to safety | 6
Politics as usual is holding B.C. back | 10
Neil Monckton / Patty Gibson PHOTOS
The union’s historic organizing drive to improve seniors’ care | 7
PUBLIC SECTOR BARGAINING | HEU’s first pre-bargaining tour included meetings with members in all regions of the province.
Gearing up for bargaining WITH COLLECTIVE agreements covering more than 40,000 HEU members working in the facilities, community health and community social services sectors set to expire on March 31, 2019, the union’s bargaining preparations are now in full swing. For the first time in its history, HEU set out on a pre-bargaining tour in February and March, to meet with members in all regions of the province in advance of the union’s upcoming formal bargaining conferences. “No matter which sector, or classification people work in – care, clerical, support, patient care technical, or trades and maintenance – I heard so many stories from our members about the extreme workloads they are coping with in a system that is literally bursting at the seams,” says HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside. “The picture they painted is very clear. There are simply not enough hands on deck to deliver the quality of services British Columbians rely on. And that’s thanks to years of cutbacks and neglect, which has stretched our health and community social services systems to the limit.” She says privatization and constant restructuring have taken a huge toll on HEU members. “Frankly, people are struggling to do the best jobs they can, despite an increasingly fragmented system, with multiple employers, and
they’re putting their own health and safety at risk.” She says there is no shortage of issues to take into this round of bargaining at all tables. And the stories she heard will be invaluable when it comes to sitting across from employers in contract talks. “Make no mistake. We can’t underestimate the years of damage done and what it will take to repair it. But bargaining gives us an important opportunity to fight for the changes we need that will value our members’ work and improve their working conditions.”
People are struggling to do the best jobs they possibly can in a system that is literally bursting at the seams. Throughout the bargaining tour, Whiteside also had a strong message for members. “We have a big job to do in bargaining. But our work does not begin and end at the bargaining table. That’s not where we win. We win on the ground with strong campaigns to make sure our collective messages are heard loud and clear.” She says the pre-bargaining tour was the first step in bringing members closer to the bargaining process.
By the time the Guardian lands in people’s mailboxes, HEU locals will have submitted their bargaining demands, which will be discussed and voted on at upcoming bargaining conferences. Those conferences will also elect members to their bargaining teams, which will represent them during contract talks in all three sectors. “It’s been five years since we were last preparing to bargain in the public sector,” says Whiteside. “Now, we are facing a round of negotiations that is our first real opportunity in more than 15 years to make significant progress for health care and community social services workers, and for the systems they work in. Ultimately, our success will be determined by our collective power, on the ground, where it counts, and at the bargaining table in face-to-face talks.” To that end, the union is creating the tools of engagement needed to bring members closer to the bargaining process from beginning to end, and to help build member activism at the work site. “Right now, we are in a significant historical moment for our union and the entire public sector,” says Whiteside. “The pre-bargaining tour gave us such a rich opportunity to pause, take stock, and talk with each other about what is important and how we organize ourselves to make the best gains we possibly can.”
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COMMENT Jennifer Whiteside | Secretary-Business Manager In so many ways, the system is being shored up at a high cost to those working on the front lines — putting them at heightened risk for injury and illness. And that has got to stop.
Preparing to bargain for better care
THROWBACK HEU HISTORY
THIS SPRING, I’ve had the good fortune to meet with HEU members across the province. I not only heard their stories directly – but in several cases, I was able to see first-hand the extremely difficult conditions our members are working in as they fight the odds to deliver the best care possible. Many work in hospitals that are routinely “over-census” – there are more patients admitted than the hospital is designed to accommodate. And everywhere, in all occupations, workers are rushed off their feet. The phrase “workload overload” does not even begin to describe it. And whatever job our members are doing in health or community social services, they’re likely doing it short-staffed. In so many ways, the system is being shored up at a high cost to those working on the front lines — putting them at heightened risk for injury and illness. Health care workers now have the highest injury rate of any occupation in the province, and that has got to stop. With collective agreements in facilities, community health and community social services set to expire on March 31, 2019 – we’re getting ready to head to the bargaining table. And when we do, we will seize the opportunity to try and fix some long-standing problems that undermine care and hurt workers. Over the last 16 years, B.C.’s health system has become increasingly fragmented thanks to privatization, contracting out, restructuring, and
a serious lack of investment in the health authorities responsible for delivering care. Recently, government has made significant strides in defense of public health care. As historic defenders of public medicare, our union applauds those advances. It’s a great beginning. But we can’t stop there. Government must address the growing recruitment and retention crisis – the funding crisis – that’s at the heart of the workload problem. Part of that equation is ensuring that health care workers have secure jobs that provide decent, family supporting wages. The other side of this equation is rooting out privatization and contracting out which drives the job insecurity and low wages that undermine care delivery. That means eliminating the laws that set us on the path the privatization in the first place – Bill 29 and 94. We need a concerted effort by all employers to do what needs to be done to reduce injury rates in both health and community social services. We need a health care system, and a community social services system, where workers are respected. And where the work they do is valued. That’s the way we can begin to repair the damage of the past 16 years. That’s the way we will bargain for better care.
BREAKTHROUGH IN B.C.’S PRIVATE NURSING HOMES Delegates to HEU’s inaugral private hospital (nursing homes) Wage Policy Conference in June 1977 get ready to bargain. Six months later, a first contract was awarded by a three-man arbitration board, covering 350 workers. At the time, it was described in the Guardian by HEU servicing representative Sharon Yandle (centre) as a major breakthrough in the union’s fight to upgrade working conditions in private long-term care.
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“It’s not as exciting a raise as we had hoped for,” said Yandle, “since it ups the base rate from the provincial minimum wage of $3.00 an hour to $4.31 an hour. But it’s a big step in the right direction.” With that contract, private care HEU members gained first-time provisions for paid compassionate leave, paid sick leave and a shared premium-payments medical plan.
Your union. Your paper.
HEALTH MINISTRY ANNOUNCEMENTS
THERE’S A SEISMIC SHIFT in provincial government support for public health care, say medicare advocates. For HEU and its members, it is the result of years of struggle to protect public services. New and expanded hospitals. More care staff for seniors. Expanded surgical diagnostics and operating capacity. Job stability for support service workers. Reduced prescription drug prices for lowerincome residents. Greater access to dental surgeries for vulnerable children and adults. And it’s all happened since Labour Day. “What we are seeing from Premier John Horgan’s government is nothing short of a sea change that is putting the public back in health care,” says HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside. “The previous govern-
B.C. government investments in public health care mark a significant turning point in the history of medicare in B.C. ment’s lack of investment in the public provision of health services needlessly undermined patient care and put B.C. well behind the rest of Canada.” For BC Health Coalition cochair Edith MacHattie, the legacy of the past 16 years also created a far bigger problem – it potentially opened the door to two-tier U.S.style health care. That’s why she sees the late March and early April
Mike Old PHOTO
B.C. puts public back in health care
MARCH | Health Minister Adrian Dix announces a significant increase in the number of MRI procedures, as part of a strategy to improve overall surgical wait times.
back-to-back announcements by Health Minister Adrian Dix as a significant turning point in the history of medicare in B.C. First, the government unveiled new funds to reduce surgical waiting lists and to provide more diagnostic services like MRIs. Then, it moved to enact legislation that cracks down on private clinics that engage in illegal extra- billing. “For years, B.C. let surgical and diagnostic wait lists grow while allowing a market for private, forprofit clinics, that charge patients steep unlawful private fees, to flourish,” says MacHattie. “Now, the province’s new surgical and diagnostic strategy will mean shorter waits for public surgeries and MRI scans. And fewer patients will feel they need to consider paying high fees at private clinics.” This move to curb extra-billing also reverses another troubling
trend. Our province has the second highest rate of unlawful medical billing and nearly 90 per cent of the private clinics operating in B.C. are charging fees banned under the Canada Health Act. This year alone, B.C. was fined $15.9 million by the federal government for violations dating back to 2015 and 2016. “Together, these actions by the health ministry go a long way to restoring quality health care and equitable access to services,” says Whiteside. “But even more importantly, they send a message that the creeping privatization within our health system is no longer tolerated by those in power in Victoria.” However, these changes are not only better for public health care, says Whiteside. They also make common sense, when considering the recent actions to reduce the
province’s surgical wait times. “The previous government turned its back on the strong results from the old Richmond hip and knee reconstruction project, which reduced median wait times for surgery by 75 per cent. Now, with five new hip and knees replacement centres rolling out over the next year, we can finally get back to using evidence-based solutions to solve our health care challenges. “When the BC Liberals fell from power last year, our province was second last when it came to per capita spending on health care,” says Whiteside. “With a new government – and a health minister who is committed to renewing our health system – B.C. is finally turning the page on what has been a very dark period for public care.” NEIL MONCKTON
YOUR UNION CSS members now covered for Class 5 driver’s licences
BLOOM GROUP | Recently, Vancouver’s St. James local had one of its best member meeting turnouts. These members provide services to seniors, people with addictions, women escaping abuse, and those with mental health issues.
After winning a recent arbitration award, HEU members working in the community social services subsector, who are required to hold a Class 5 driver’s licence as a condition of employment, will now get the $75 licence renewal fee reimbursed by their employer. The Community Social Services Employers’ Association had appealed the decision by Arbitrator Vince Ready, but the B.C. Labour Relations Board dismissed the appeal and upheld Ready’s ruling.
CSS members – who renewed their Class 5 licence on or after June 12, 2017 – should submit ICBC receipts to their employer for reimbursement. A Class 4 driver’s licence (for transporting passengers) has been covered since 2012, when the Community Social Services Bargaining Association successfully won its case at arbitration. In his decision, Arbritrator Ready ruled the employer is required to reimburse workers the ICBC licence renewal fee; the ICBC medical form processing fee; and any remaining physician costs paid to the physician to complete the
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IT’S THE LAW
Preventing discrimination IN AN IMPORTANT DECISION for equity in the workplace, the Supreme Court of Canada has held that the prohibition against discrimination in employment is not limited to protecting employees from harassment only by their supervisors. The case, BC Human Rights Tribunal v. Schrenk, arose because a civil engineer working on a road improvement project in Delta complained about derogatory statements about his place of birth, religion and sexual orientation made by the site foreman. The Human Rights Tribunal decided it would consider the discrimination complaint despite the fact that the civil engineer and site foreman worked for different companies and the site foreman was not the civil engineer’s supervisor. However, the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned this decision. It held that a complaint of discrimination in employment could not be brought against the site foreman because he had no economic power or authority over the civil engineer. Fortunately, the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada disagreed. It held that the protection against discrimination in employment must be interpreted broadly. Employees must be protected against harassment whether it is perpetrated by a supervisor, co-worker, client or some other person related to the workplace. This is because power in the workplace is not limited to economic power. It also includes power imbalances due to race, gender and disability, among other things. For example, a team leader may still be harassed by co-workers with less seniority because she is a woman or because she has an accent. This important decision recognizes there are many different relationships in the workplace and preventing employment discrimination is a shared responsibility.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
The road to union activism EVERY HEU MEMBER – no matter what sector you work in – has the legal right to actively participate in your union, without fear of discrimination or discipline by your employer. And those rights are protected by your collective agreement, HEU’s Constitution and By-Laws, and the B.C. Labour Code. The Code outlines all British Columbian workers’ right to join a union and participate in all lawful activities of their union, such as collective bargaining, contract enforcement, assignment to committees like health and safety, among others. Unions are only as strong as their members’ activism. And members are only as strong as the education and training opportunities provided by their union. Together, they are a force to be reckoned with.
How does it all work? Members’ fundamental rights and working conditions (such as wages and benefits) are administered through your collective agreement, while the Constitution and By-Laws sets the framework for the governance of HEU, outlining the mandate, rules and responsibilities of the union, as
well as its membership, elected officers and staff. The first step to activism is attending local meetings at your work site to discover how your union works. As you build your skills and confidence, you may want to run for a local executive position, train to become a shop steward, get elected as a delegate to participate in bargaining or attend convention. There are instances when your employer may deny union leave, based on operational requirements or other factors. It’s best to consult with a shop steward should that occur. As an activist, you can apply to attend events like the equity conference or HEU summer school. You may also be selected to serve on HEU subcommittees, like young workers, environment, pensions, or global justice and peace. These are all great stepping stones to having more input in your union and even applying to work at HEU through the annual work opportunity. Find out more information by talking to your local executive. BRENDA WHITEHALL
YOUR UNION ICBC medical form not otherwise covered by the employee benefit plan, up to the amount outlined in the MSP fee schedule.
Vancouver Coastal suspends controversial attendance program The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority temporarily suspended its decade-old Attendance & Wellness Promotion (AWP) program in January, after a health authority survey showed workers overwhelmingly found the controversial program far too punitive, and not focused enough on their health and wellness. 4 GUARDIAN | Spring 2018
“We’re pleased the health authority is finally listening to the concerns of frontline workers,” says HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside. “Many of our members feel the program has become an attendance management exercise by the employer to target and punish workers who call in sick.” In 2013, HEU and other unions successfully filed a grievance to ensure the employer would consider the circumstances of individual cases, and that the program progression was not automatic. HEU continues to fight against members being disciplined for non-culpable absenteeism, includ-
ing overtime bans, FTE reductions and terminations. Currently, there are many wellness programs already available – EDMP, EFAP, workability and accommodations – which can be negatively affected by the AWP. Vancouver Coastal recently held focus groups with health union representatives, frontline workers and other stakeholders to review what’s working, what’s not, and brainstorm ways to improve the program. The health authority is not disbanding the AWP. It is redesigning the program with input from workers directly impacted by it.
Tracking privatized hospital laundry services in the Interior HEU members in the Interior have been tracking issues with hospital laundry since their health authority privatized the service in five major regions last summer. Members have reported numerous incidents where damp, dirty and stained laundry is returned to facilities inappropriately folded and/or sorted; where departments are experiencing regular shortages of linens required by patients and staff; and where soiled clothing, needles, safety pins, used surgical items, and bandages have been
SHOP STEWARD TRAINING
Members step up to help others
“IT FEELS GOOD to get a positive outcome to a problem, even behind the scenes – you made that person’s day, and you made your work site better,” says Sunshine Coast shop steward Laura-Lee McNab. She’s one of hundreds of stewards, both new and experienced, attending HEU’s shop steward training workshops this spring. They say seeing the collective agreement enforced and grievances resolved gives people a sense of power in their work lives and boosts morale – often the most rewarding result of a steward’s challenging job. HEU offers a full range of steward education classes in locations around B.C., aimed at every skill level. Level One introduces new and potential stewards to the role, reviews the collective agreement, and teaches the steps involved in handling grievances. Level Two classes build communication and advocacy skills, and train stewards to meet with management. The intermediate level “Know and Enforce Your Rights” workshop focuses on deeper understanding of collective agreement rights, as well as human rights and conflict in the workplace. HEU also offers further training for chief shop stewards. Each member becomes active for reasons of their own, but most are motivated by their own positive experience of having a steward go to bat for them on a workplace matter. Some members have a drive to fix a workplace issue; others want to
found in “clean” laundry bags. Some linens are returned in a threadbare condition with holes and tears, requiring them to be discarded or repaired. And many departments are struggling with inventory losses due to improper labelling and sorting. There are also complaints about housekeepers being directed to clean toilets with face cloths due to shortages of rags. And last October, Royal Inland Hospital had to close its operating
STEWARDS | They’re key to enforcing collective agreement rights and resolving conflicts.
learn about their rights. And some are “naturals”, the ones co-workers routinely gravitate toward for help. Silvia Jaime found she often ended up being a “peacemaker” at her Lions Gate Hospital local. “Now, I will actually be able to help resolve conflicts with confidence.” Maricris Avenido, a steward at Surrey Memorial taking the Level Two class, says the protection stewards are provided under the collective agreement allows her to be calmer and more impartial. “Before becoming a shop steward, I was defensive, ready to argue with management all the time. Now, I know our rights, and I know I can stand up for them.” Finding time, however, can be an obstacle. Most say their duties take between five and 10 hours a month. Some tasks can be done during a shift, and stewards can apply for paid leave for union business, but
rooms for half a day when a strong odour from clean laundry made staff ill. One consequence of contracting out in-house laundry services is longer turnaround times, especially in remote areas where weather conditions hinder timely service delivery. And the Interior Health Authority has posted workload positions at some facilities to pick up the slack.
accommodations vary. So, it can be necessary to meet with members or communicate with servicing reps on evenings and days off. Another concern is feeling pressured to solve everyone’s problems. But stewards agree that a large part of their job is helping members find their own solutions. The goal is to assist, but also to empower and share knowledge. “Stewards are the experts in their workplace,” says HEU education director Juli Rees. “They know the working conditions, the employer, their co-workers. They are the best people to find the solutions.” About 75 per cent of members, who go through any shop steward training, remain active in the union, she says, although they may get involved in their local in other ways. Or it may take them some time to feel ready to go forward, or
to see how they can contribute. Danica Santos is a young worker at Royal Columbian Hospital, in an emergency department that has seen a recent wave of retirements, including the last shop steward, who recruited her to step in. “So, we’re mostly new people, young people. Sometimes I feel we are being taken advantage of, [management] thinks we are not aware of our rights.” All agree that when members know their rights and can speak up with confidence, the local is stronger, the union is stronger, and the role of shop steward is more effective and rewarding. Interested in becoming a shop steward? Contact your local executive or current shop steward. Find dates for HEU shop steward workshops at <heu.org/workshopsand-training>. ELAINE LITTMANN
TRAINING | HEU offers a full range of steward education classes in locations around B.C., aimed at every skill level.
The union had flagged many of these concerns during its 18-month fightback campaign against contracting out hospital laundry services. Several town and city councils also passed motions opposing the move, and more than 14,000 citizens signed a petition to keep the efficiently run service and jobs in their communities.
HEU welcomes new members to the union HEU extends a warm welcome more than 250 new members three seniors’ care facilities. Workers at Tabor Home, 118-bed complex care home
to at a in
Abbotsford, voted to join HEU in December 2017. A former HEU local from 2000 to 2004, the new certification returns these health care workers to union representation and protection after almost 15 years. We also welcome 28 new members – including care aides, dietary aides and housekeepers – at Icelandic Harbour, a 77-bed assisted living residence in Southeast Vancouver. Most recently, 100 care aides, LPNs, activity aides and unit clerks at the Lodge on 4th in Ladysmith voted overwhelmingly to join HEU.
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WORKING FOR YOU
Elaine Littmann PHOTO
KEEPING HEU’S information secure and our communications network running smoothly are the key tasks of our Information Technology team members Robert Hartman, Victor Zhang, Anthony Tran and Marc Chenier. They maintain our data servers and backups; manage staff computers, phones and devices; monitor firewalls and online security, and set up audio and visual tech for events. HEU’s IT team is pictured in our Provincial Office data centre, where all member information, file storage and email correspondence are privately and safely housed.
MAKING IT HAPPEN
Donisa Bernardo | Financial Secretary
It’s truly refreshing to see a government take decisive action in so many areas — health care, child care, transportation, help for kids and more.
MY DAD AND I WERE TALKING
a few weeks ago. He wanted to tell me about a hot topic among his friends, which came up when they were drinking their daily espressos at the local coffee shop. He and his buddies had noticed their January pension payment had gone up. They simply could not believe their eyes when they received their cheques. Then, my Dad figured out what was going on. The new BC NDP government had delivered on their election promise to cut the medical service plan fees in half. For my Dad, it means more money in his pocket. For a family of four, it means a savings of $1,800 a year.
Making life more affordable
My Dad was impressed. And so was I. When I started thinking about it, I realized this, and other actions government is taking, are making a real difference for working people and their families. It’s making life more affordable. And that was the promise this government made when we went to the polls last spring. We also can’t underestimate what it means for young families that this government is massively investing in child care. A single-parent family earning less than $45,000 a year will see the cost of their licensed day care drop from $1,250 to zero by this September. That’s huge!
And when it comes to prescription drugs, 240,000 families will no longer have to choose between putting food on the table and paying for their medication because their deductibles have been eliminated. Plus, this government has increased income assistance and disability payments by $100 per month. By eliminating tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, commuters will save as much as $1,500 per year. Ferry fares have been frozen on all major routes and fares have been cut by 15 per cent on smaller routes. For me, it’s truly refreshing to see a government take decisive action in so many areas – health care, child care, transportation, help for kids aging out of care, and more. Finally, we are beginning to see some real change. It will take time to make up for 16 years of damaging B.C. Liberal government policies. But like my Dad and his friends – and hundreds of thousands of other British Columbians – more relief is on the way. It’s about time.
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Victor Elkins | President
PRESIDENT’S DESK On April 28, we join with Canadian unions on the National Day of Mourning to remember workers who died on the job or from work-related illness.
SAFETY. IT’S ALWAYS BEEN
a cornerstone of the labour movement. Here in British Columbia, we’ve seen high-profile tragedies that have taken the lives of farmworkers, ironworkers, miners, loggers, and many more. And we all remember Grant De Patie, a young gas station attendant killed during a theft, while working alone at night. Although some of these deaths resulted in new or tougher workplace safety laws, we still need to protect and enforce them. That’s why every year on April 28, we join with Canadian unions on National Day of Mourning to remember workers who died on the job or from work-related illness. From coast to coast, vigils are held to remind ourselves how critical workplace safety is for everyone – in all fields of work. In this province, health care assistants (care aides, community health workers, home support workers) have the highest workplace injury rate, according to WorkSafeBC’s 2016 stats. It’s shocking and unacceptable.
Employers are responsible
Every worker has the right to return home safely at the end of their shift. And it’s the employer’s legal responsibility to ensure a safe work environment that’s also free of harassment and bullying. According to the Canadian Labour Congress, about 2,000 workers die each year from asbestos-related diseases – something unions have taken on, along with a commitment to address how domestic violence and mental health also affect workers. We need to be vigilant. We need to hold employers to account. If you’re injured, it needs to be documented. If you’re asked to do a duty that feels unsafe for you or someone else (patient/resident or coworker), you have the right to refuse. It’s important for HEU locals to have functioning joint occupational health and safety committees, as well as trained OH&S stewards to help enforce and protect workers’ rights.
Injuries are not part of the job
Injury is not just “part of the job”. I hear many alarming stories from HEU members about experiences with violence, and we all know the impact of short-staffing and workload. What can we do? We can enforce collective agreement language. We can bargain for safer conditions. We can educate ourselves.
We must open the doors and we must see to it they remain open, so that others can pass through.”
– ROSEMARY BROWN
How HEU organized private care
At the time, there were very few collective agreements in the sector, despite many attempts to organize. What changed, and made successful organizing possible, was the establishment of the B.C. Labour Relations Board in 1972 – which simplified the process to join a union, especially for those working in essential services. “At that time, we probably had the most favourable Labour Code for organizing,” says Yandle. “But you still had to sneak around. People were so, so very scared.” The cloud of fear and intimidation looming over the long-term care sector did not lift easily. It took a very public campaign centred on the terrible conditions in residential care to embolden people to join a union. Yandle went on call-in radio shows to publicize the poor conditions in residential care. Once word began to spread, Yandle and the two member organizers working with her – Mona Leaker from Lions Gate Hospital and Kathy Bakker from Children’s Hospital – were able to begin leafleting outside of facilities.
The cloud of fear and intimidation looming over the long-term care sector did not lift easily. It took a very public campaign centred on the terrible conditions in residential care to embolden people to join a union. They discovered workers were motivated to join HEU not only for their own gain, but also because they wanted better, more humane care for seniors. “When people called us, the motivating force for those workers were the conditions of patient care – that was number one,” says Yandle. “They were working in horrible conditions, and there is no shame in wanting to earn a good wage… but it was the conditions of patient care that moved people to action.” At King George Hospital (which eventually closed), Yandle and the team put the organizing drive on hold to expose the deplorable conditions seniors lived in. “We actually had to stop ourselves midway through organizing because the conditions were so bad,” says Yandle. “We started to collect affidavits from the staff about the conditions and made that very public.” King George wasn’t the only site with problems. At the Grandview Private Hospital (which is no longer in operation), supplies would be locked up overnight. The night shift would be forced to make due with whatever they could find. For incontinent residents, they used plastic bags and bread wrappers.
By exposing conditions like these, HEU was able to bring media and government attention to the issue, fight for workers and seniors at the sites, and enact change on a broader scale. Yandle says having an NDP government was key to the union’s success.“They were very responsive, and I really believe accelerated the [eventual] introduction of the Long-term Care Program because of the things we were finding out.” In 1978, government introduced the Long-term Care Program, which subsidized and standardized care in private, non-profit and government facilities. It was a good start, but HEU still had to fight tooth and nail for every gain. Seniors’ care workers were not only subject to heavy workloads in deplorable conditions, on average they earned minimum wage, were granted only the provincial vacation requirement of two weeks, and had no paid sick leave, even after many years of service. Most of the workers were women, and a majority of them were people of colour. Yandle was shocked to learn that employers were using a twotier, race-based wage system, which paid white workers more per hour even though they were doing the same jobs. “Those workers also might have a different [job] title,” says Yandle. “It made no difference [to the work], whatsoever, except that it was completely racialized.” During the hard-won Windermere strike of 1981, racialized pay and racism became explosive issues. The owner of the facility, Trizec, was publicly called out for its racist practice of paying higher
Elaine Littmann PHOTO
IN 1974, HEU EMBARKED ON AN AMBITIOUS ORGANIZING PROJECT to improve working and caring conditions in the private long-term care sector. At the centre of the union’s on-the-ground campaign was Sharon Yandle, who insists that success was earned only through the collective efforts of the workers themselves – including many who were initially terrified to join a union despite desperately needing one.
LOOKING BACK | Sharon Yandle talks with the Guardian about the challenges they faced and how they surmounted them.
wages to white workers, as most of the staff were new Canadians from the Philippines, Fiji, China and Portugal. Yandle says holding a four-month, 24-hour strike line was not easy, but it had the support and solidarity of other HEU members. In fact, HEU locals gave over $44,000 to supplement daily strike pay, and they helped cover the picket line when weekly strike meetings were held. “This show of solidarity helped maintain the strike,” says Yandle. “Workers were encouraged to stay out on strike because of the support.” After four months on the line, the strike ended with significant gains, including doing away with race-based wage disparity, almost doubling wages, bringing in benefits for the first time, and increasing vacation beyond the provincial minimum. In less than a decade, HEU had managed to organize the majority of workers in the private long-term care sector and held 77 certifications. And while new barriers and challenges would arise in the decades to come, seniors’ care had become a central focus to the union’s struggle for quality, public health care. SARA ROZELL
April 1981 | Windermere members protesting outside of Trizec’s headquarters in downtown Vancouver. Fighting workplace racism became a cornerstone issue during the Windermere strike when it was discovered that the facility operator used a two-tier race-based wage system. The privately owned facility, operated with public money, paid workers half the going rate and paid white workers more than non-white workers. The 100 HEU members spent 21 months negotiating a first collective agreement before taking strike action.
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CLOSING THE GAP ON SENIORS’ CARE First steps underway to relieve staffing crisis
Finally, after years of fighting for more staff and better caring conditions, action is being taken to relieve B.C.’s extreme staffing shortage in long-term care. February’s provincial budget outlined a major commitment by the NDP government to address chronic issues in seniors’ care – which is welcome news for a depleted system in desperate need. Over the next three years, $548 million in new funding will go toward improving seniors’ care, including more staff in long-term care. This is on top of the $20 million that’s been rolling out as an emergency stopgap measure, targeting sites with the lowest staffing levels. That first round of funding focuses on converting casual and part-time care aide positions to full-time.
HOW DID WE GET HERE? HEU members have struggled long and hard over the past many years to get government and their health authorities to deal with understaffing in long-term care. The union’s most recent campaign Care Can’t Wait took the case public with a comprehensive advertising strategy, petitions, a grassroots member outreach effort on the shop floor, and meetings with MLAs. At the same time, HEU members’ concerns were underscored by B.C.’s seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie. Her reports over the last three years showed that up to 90 per cent of residential care homes were not adequately funded to meet government’s staffing guidelines. By last spring, seniors’ care had become a priority issue in the provincial election. “Our efforts to make seniors’ care an election issue succeeded,” says HEU’s secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside. “All three parties in the legislature promised to improve staffing levels in residential care.
Shawna Lockhart, an activity aide from Kamloops, agrees. “It’s been heartbreaking to see some of the serious problems out there,” says Lockhart. “Hearing stories from members who face tough situations on a daily basis was difficult, but also empowering. Together, we worked hard to make sure government and decision-makers listened.”
WHAT’S NEEDED NOW? In the four years since Mackenzie’s appointment, her reports have proven instrumental in putting seniors’ care issues squarely in the public eye. To that end, Mackenzie has tackled a wide variety of issues from staffing to seniors’ poverty to housing. But while the first steps to deal with the staffing crisis are now being taken, there are other critical problems facing seniors in care. Last fall, Mackenzie released the results of B.C.’s firstever resident survey. It underscored the need for more timely assistance with basic care needs, more flexibility with meal times, and higher levels of social interaction and activities. And her most recent report released at the end of January – Residential Care Facilities Quick Fact Directory – also covered a variety of issues related to seniors’ care, including food services, social engagement and overmedication. According to that report, the provincial average for food costs per resident per day is $8, but can dip as low as $4.92. And about half of all seniors in care experience isolation, loneliness and a low sense of social
B.C. Seniors Advocate Report, January 2018 FOOD SERVICES The provincial average of food costs per resident per day is $8, but can be as low as $4.92.
SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT Approximately 50 per cent of all seniors in care experience isolation, loneliness and a low sense of social engagement.
“Clearly, the political will is now there to make sure our seniors’ homes get the resources they need to deliver safe, quality care.” HEU member Amy Nand is a care aide in Abbotsford. She sees some light at the end of the tunnel. “For so long, it has felt too big for us to solve on our own or within our work sites,” says Nand, who was part of the union’s Care Can’t Wait campaign. Nand says it was critical for care staff, who face the same daily struggles, to come together and advocate for themselves and their residents. “We found common ground,” she says. “We dug deep, shared our stories, got at the issues and made connections with the public.”
8 GUARDIAN | Spring 2018
OVERMEDICATION One in every four residents receives antidepressants without a prescription and 25 per cent of residents are given antipsychotics without a diagnosis.
engagement. Just as disturbing, the report says one in every four residents receives antidepressants without a prescription, and it’s the same statistic for residents getting antipsychotics without a diagnosis.
QUALITY CARE Kim Slater, chair of the Vancouver Island Association of Family Councils, is pleased the seniors advocate is tracking issues that are top of mind for families with loved ones in care, but wants to see more changes. “Care should focus on the needs of the resident,” says Slater. “What a tragic way to spend the remainder of your life – feeling lonely and isolated in a facility full of
TIME TO CARE | For years, care staff have pointed out how short-staffing results in rushed care. In 2014, a survey of HEU care aides showed that more than 70 per cent did not have the time to engage with residents or comfort someone who may be confused, agitated or afraid.
people. It shouldn’t be happening.” In a 2014 Viewpoints Research survey of HEU care aides, more than 70 per cent reported they did not have the time to engage with residents or comfort someone who may be confused, agitated or afraid. Lockhart says it takes a toll on staff working in longterm care. “You get into this thinking you are going to be able to help and provide care with dignity for residents, but the reality is very different,” she says. “We need to close that gap.” Research shows that residents who participate in social and recreational activities – and have a close relationship with at least one staff member – are more likely to have positive self-perceived health. “But what is interesting is the link to the caregiver relationship,” says Slater. “If a resident is happy to see their caregiver, feels close to their caregiver – they live longer. What we’re talking about is quality of life. But there’s mounting evidence that we are also talking about health.” Quality of life is not determined by basic care alone. The whole package – care, food, medication and socialization – is vital to good residential care. One thing impacts the other. For example, a lack of socialization can lead to more complicated issues such as overuse of medication. “Every person needs stimulation,” says Lockhart.
CONTRACTING OUT Although HEU is welcoming these first steps to relieve the staffing crisis in seniors’ care, contracting out and flipping contracts remains a top concern. The union is continuing to press for changes that are urgently needed to stop the practice of laying off entire care teams. “We cannot solve our staffing crisis if we don’t deal with contracting out and contract-flipping,” says Whiteside. “It not only creates a race to the bottom, it destabilizes care and has a profoundly damaging effect on seniors.” Long-term residential care has become one of the most stressful and unsafe working environments in B.C., with workers regularly exposed to violence and injuries. Moving to stabilize the sector by ending contracting out, raising staffing levels, and legislating enforceable standards would improve both working and caring conditions. HEU is also calling for strong accountability measures to ensure funds go to increased staffing, not to profits or administration. “We need enforceable standards that are legislated,” says Whiteside. “We need strong mechanisms in place to make sure that new public funding gets to the front lines where it’s needed.”
CARE CAN’T WAIT | The union’s most recent campaign took the case for higher staffing levels public with a comprehensive advertising strategy, petitions, a grassroots member-to-member outreach effort, and meetings with MLAs.
“When we don’t provide that, it leads to more complicated issues such as aggression and depression.” The amount of money spent on food raises questions about the quality, amount, and nutritional value of the food provided to residents. Some sites have full kitchens and dietary staff to prepare wholesome food, while other facilities, to save money, serve reheated, prepared food. “Over the years, there have been some improvements,” says Slater. “We’re heading in the right direction, and it’s great that the seniors advocate is monitoring overmedication, but there’s still a lot to do. Improved staffing levels would go a long way to help.”
Recently, Mackenzie and the Minister of Health Adrian Dix recognized a need for increased transparency and funding accountability. “After all of the hard work put into this campaign by HEU members and supporters, it’s encouraging to see our new NDP government take action,” says Whiteside. “And we will continue to make sure our voices are heard on all issues impacting seniors and the people who provide their care.”
Spring 2018 | GUARDIAN 9
News from here and around the world
B.C. LABOUR CODE REVIEW
DE AGUAYO APPOINTED CHAIR OF THE LABOUR RELATIONS BOARD HEU congratulates Jacquie de Aguayo on her recent appointment as the new chair of the B.C. Labour Relations Board (LRB) and Employment Standards Tribunal (EST). De Aguayo, a former HEU legal director and assistant secretary-business manager, is the first woman to be appointed chair of the LRB and EST. She brings to the position a strong background in labour relations and employment and constitutional law. She was engaged as a vicechair of the LRB in 2014, the board’s registrar in 2015 and, in August 2017, was appointed acting chair. The LRB is an independent administrative tribunal that oversees labour relations in unionized workplaces, under the B.C. Labour Code. The Employment Standards Tribunal hears appeals of decisions made by the Employment Standards Branch involving non-unionized workers and employers. HEU joins B.C.’s labour movement and the provincial government in looking forward to a new vision and direction for the board under de Aguayo’s leadership.
Leveling the playing field B.C.’S LABOUR RELATIONS CODE is up for review. And HEU is making urgent recommendations about the changes workers need to uphold their rights to join a union and bargain collectively. As the Guardian goes to press, a three-person panel is holding public hearings throughout the province and receiving submissions from interested stakeholders. The panel will report back to B.C.’s Minister of Labour Harry Bains by August. Many HEU members may not realize how deeply the Code affects their working lives and their collective agreement rights. As the legal framework for labour relations in B.C., it governs everything from access to union representation, to collective bargaining, to dispute resolution, and more. The last significant changes to the Code were made in 2002. Since then, B.C. Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger says, “Our labour laws and their application have become radically tilted in favour of employers.” In two separate presentations to the panel, HEU’s president Victor Elkins and secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside drove home the devastating impact constant restructuring, privatization, contracting out and contract-flipping have had on HEU members. Specifically, HEU is calling for changes that will provide stable and secure employment for contracted support services workers in B.C. hospitals, as well as work-
ers in long-term care who are employed by for-profit operators. That means making changes to successorship language in the Code that would allow workers to keep their jobs and their union agreement when work is contracted out – or contracts are flipped. And of course, the B.C. Liberals’ laws that excluded health workers from the successorship provisions of the Code must be repealed. The union also wants a binding adjudication process to ensure union alternatives are fully considered when health employers intend to introduce changes in the workplace that would affect a significant number of employees. Currently, the Code requires the union and employer to engage in a “good faith” consultation process to reach an adjustment plan. “However, in our experience, this is often little more than an empty exercise,” says Whiteside. HEU also took issue with a statutory regime that has forced
workers in hospital support services, and many long-term care facilities, to bargain separately from the Facilities Bargaining Association. Up until 2002, almost all of these workers would have been covered by a single master collective agreement. Now, HEU bargains more than 100 contracts outside of the public sector. The result? Workers – who are doing the same job and represented by the same union – are covered by different contracts with different wages and working conditions. And yet, all are publicly funded. “There’s no question that privatization in health care has created a race to the bottom,” says Whiteside. “By making urgently needed changes to B.C.’s labour laws, we can begin to reverse this trend and restore fairness to the province’s health care workplaces.” PATTY GIBSON
VANCOUVER PRESENTATION | HEU members join the union’s secretarybusiness manager Jennifer Whiteside at the labour review hearing.
Politics as usual is holding B.C. back WE HAVE A DEMOCRATIC CRISIS on our hands in B.C. For the past several decades, there has been a steady decline in voter participation in our elections. If the trend continues, we are in danger of a majority of British Columbians refusing to vote. And even for those voters who make it to the polls, many feel pressured to not vote for their candidate of choice. Instead they vote “strategically” for a candidate that is not their first choice, in order to defeat the candidate they don’t want to win. Making matters worse, going back to the mid1950s, only one B.C. government was elected with the support of over half the people. Otherwise, in 17 out of the past 18 elections, the winning party got all the power with less than half the vote, thus they receive majority vote from a minority vote’s approval. 10 GUARDIAN | Spring 2018
The upcoming referendum gives British Columbians an exciting opportunity to try a new kind of politics.
Is it any wonder that B.C. voters feel politics as usual does not offer them a real democratic opportunity? As a student organization, we know too well what this democratic deficit means when it comes to the policies and programs that matter to the over 130,000 post-secondary students we represent. Politicians, government officials, and other decisionmakers can choose to ignore our issues because of our perceived lack of ballot box power. That’s why we need to update our democratic practices to make voters want to vote. The upcoming referendum gives British Columbians an exciting opportunity to try a new kind of politics. Let’s embrace that opportunity. SIMKA MARSHALL CHAIRPERSON, B.C. FEDERATION OF STUDENTS
B.C.’S UNKNOWN HISTORY
Real people in critical struggles “A MILITANT LABOUR movement has been part of British Columbia’s identity going back to the earliest times.” And with that introduction, so begins Rod Mickleburgh’s fascinating and thoroughly accessible account of how B.C. workers, over more than 150 years, have fought back against tremendous odds to improve their own lives and those of future generations. Beautifully illustrated with more than 200 archival photographs, On the Line: A History of the British Columbia Labour Movement chronicles an essential part of the province’s history. “It’s a history that is mostly unknown,” says former labour reporter and journalist Mickleburgh. “It’s not taught in schools. And yet we owe so much to workers’ sacrifices and struggles. Their contribution to the economy and history of B.C. is immeasurable.” From pre-Confederation to modern day, On the Line is far from a dry, academic recitation of facts and dates. Rather, it is a rich and colourful account that captures the stories of real people in real struggles. And to its credit, this history doesn’t whitewash the racism that infected some of those struggles or ignore divisions that existed within the labour movement. On the Line also highlights the struggles of women and cultural minority workers to achieve equality and democracy in their work-
places and communities – struggles that continue in many different forms to this day. As to what sticks most with Mickleburgh at the end of this fiveyear project, he says two things stand out. First, is how unaware he was of the huge contributions Indigenous peoples made to B.C.’s early economy, as the predominant workforce of the time. “In those first 30 or 40 years, who was doing the majority of work?” he asks. “It was Indigenous people. We don’t think about that. They were the early miners, loggers, fishermen, dockworkers…despite all the terrible calamities that befell them, until 1890 Indigenous people were still the majority of the population of B.C.” And second, he was struck by how many “noble struggles” were lost. “Before the 1940s, unions lost every single major strike. They fought incredible strikes, but the deck was so stacked against them,” he says. “Employers would hire strikebreakers who were then protected by the militia… union activists were blacklisted so they couldn’t get work anywhere…striking workers were evicted from company houses. It wasn’t until after the Second World War that unions were recognized in law.” Nevertheless, step by step, gains were made: an end to child labour, the eight-hour work day, the five-
day workweek, health and safety laws, paid vacations, and so much more. But as this history attests, none of it came easy. And workers today, like the generations before them, have their own fights to wage against ongoing injustices in the
workplace and their communities. “What heroes those early workers really were,” reflects Mickleburgh. “And think how much we owe them. Unfortunately, they’re anonymous… No streets were named after them.” PATTY GIBSON
NEWSBITES Chinese regulator takes charge of B.C.’s biggest nursing home chain In February 2017, the federal and provincial governments approved the sale of Retirement Concepts to Anbang Insurance (through its subsidiary Cedar Tree Investments) despite concerns that the Chinese company’s global spending spree was unsustainable. The sale included 20 Retirement Concepts locations in B.C. HEU represents about 1,700 members under 10 collective agreements at nine of those facilities.
Now, a Chinese government regulator will run the company for the next one to two years to deal with the company’s accumulated debt, incurred during Anbang’s global spending spree, which bought up hotels, insurance companies, and B.C.-based Retirement Concepts. HEU has recommended government implement a three-point action plan to safeguard resident care and ensure stability at the Retirement Concepts workplaces. The action plan would monitor spending and staffing, prevent future contracting out, and investigate the feasibility of acquiring
and operating Anbang’s nursing home sites, should they be sold. Retirement Concepts is contracted by government to provide more than 1,900 nursing home beds, where frail seniors and others receive 24/7 care, along with about 750 assisted living spaces. The company received $96.7 million dollars from B.C.’s health authorities in 2016-2017 for services at those sites. Anbang now controls nearly one of every 10 nursing home beds, outside of those provided directly by health authorities.
Brian Day’s crusade against public health care back in court A coalition of health care advocates were back in B.C. Supreme Court in early April arguing in favour of keeping provincial laws that protect public medicare. Since the trial began in September 2016, the advocates’ legal team has battled lawyers representing Vancouver-based, private clinic owner Brian Day. For the past two decades, Day has made it his personal crusade to bring private care to Canada. Spring 2018 | GUARDIAN 11
Indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such.”
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
Care aides win fightback campaign AFTER NINE MONTHS OF intense pressure from HEU members, the Heiltsuk Tribal Council and Heiltsuk band members, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCHA) recently rescinded displacement notices to care aides working at R.W. Large Memorial Hospital in Bella Bella. “I’m grateful we didn’t lose our positions,” said Vivian Dixon, a care aide in Bella Bella for more
“We know the culture and how to deal with things as opposed to somebody coming in off the streets, more or less, for two weeks at a time.” than 30 years. “It was a great job all the way around with good teamwork to help achieve this victory. Our residents are very happy and relieved that we are still going to be there to take care of them.” Last May, VCHA issued a Section 54 notice to the union, announcing its decision to redesign the care delivery model at the hospital. They cited “safety concerns, staffing shortages, high turnover of staff, lack of clinical support for RNs, and budget constraints.” The union successfully refuted each of those arguments. “These care aides live in the community, share the Heiltsuk history, culture and language, and hold family-supporting jobs that are an important part of Bella Bella’s economy,” says HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside. “They collectively represent more than 70 years of experience providing culturally appropriate care to the people in their community, including frail seniors.” Besides losing her job, Dixon feared the quality of care in her community would suffer. “For myself, I was really concerned for our long-term care patients.
“We are like family. We all know each other. It’s important to them to see familiar faces, and have someone like me, who has been there all these years, who is familiar with the health of each resident and can deliver good care.” A major issue was the health authority’s failure to consult with the Heiltsuk Tribal Council on how this move would impact the Nation’s traditional, holistic health care delivery on their own land, or its effect on band members who rely on familiar care services specific to their unique culture. “We know the culture and how to deal with things as opposed to somebody coming in off the streets – more or less – for two weeks at a time,” said Dixon. “We know the families and their wishes. We provide beginning to end-oflife care, including palliative care, and we know what to do culturally.” Vancouver Coastal’s proposal would replace HEU Heiltsuk care aides with LPNs brought into the remote community from nursing agen-
cies or other health authorities. The Heiltsuk Nation took the VCHA to task, citing sections from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Report and the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), signed by Canada, as proof the band’s human rights were being violated, which is grounds for legal recourse. And both the Heiltsuk Health Centre Society’s board of directors and the First Nations Health Authority threw their support behind the care aides. “This victory is the direct result of the respectful collaboration between the Heiltsuk Nation, the care aides, the union and community supporters,” says Whiteside. “Together, our voices were heard.” “It was a long nine months of uncertainty, like a dark cloud hanging over our heads,” says Dixon. “But now, we can move forward and do our jobs providing care in our community.” BRENDA WHITEHALL
BELLA BELLA | The Heiltsuk Tribal Council played an essential role in helping HEU members keep their jobs, and protect health care in their community.
NEWSBITES Should he prevail, it would mean an end to universal public health care as we know it. “If Brian Day wins, it will create U.S.-style health care in Canada where physicians will be allowed to charge patients any amount they like for services, and patients who can pay will get faster care than the rest of us,” says BC Health Coalition (BCHC) co-chair Edith MacHattie. If that happens, MacHattie warns, it will lead to a loss of doctors to any parallel private system, resulting in skyrocketing costs and longer wait times in the public 12 GUARDIAN | Spring 2018
health system. “It is a huge danger for Canadian health care,” says MacHattie. For updates about the trial, please visit <savemedicare.ca> online.
Legislation moves to recognize Indigeneous peoples’ rights On February 7, Bill C-262 – the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act – passed its second reading in the House of Commons. First introduced in April 2016 as a private member’s bill by Québec
NDP MP Romeo Saganash, the proposed legislation is an Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The objectives of UNDRIP include recognizing the social, economic, political, cultural, spiritual and human rights of Indigenous peoples. It also urges stakeholders to obtain full and prior consent of Indigenous groups on any project that impacts their land (i.e. pipelines), and prohibits all forms of discrimination and racism against Indigenous peoples.
In a statement, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde wrote: “Reconciliation is a non-partisan issue. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a central part of reconciliation. First Nations and Canadians support legislation to implement the UN Declaration. All parliamentarians should be part of this act of reconciliation as a matter of human rights. “Bill C-262 would require the federal government to take concrete action with First Nations to co-develop a national action plan and work together to ensure the
HEU lab assistant Kim Benke at Penticton Regional Hospital is so calming and caring, you’d almost be happy to have your blood drawn by her.
Lab work key to patient care
laws of Canada are consistent with the Declaration… [It’s] about working together to build a stronger country for all of us. We look forward to ongoing dialogue with First Nations and Canadians as we work towards the adoption of this Bill.”
Campaigning for a national drug plan Unions, health and community organizations across Canada are spearheading a campaign to establish a national public prescription drug plan.
ON THE JOB
For HEU carpenter and millwright Barb Owen, it was time to take a stand. This past October, with the Royal Columbian Hospital’s (RCH) rebuild about to enter its second phase, the jobs of nearly 40 HEU members, including hers, remained on the line. That’s because, like other new health infrastructure across B.C., the RCH project has been on a publicprivate partnership (P3) track. Approved by the BC Liberals in 2015, if RCH goes ahead as a P3, all trades and maintenance work could be contracted out. “Compared to a private corporation running the facility, we can offer better value,” says Owen. “As direct employees of Fraser Health, we renovate RCH all the time, but none of that produces a profit that comes at the expense of patient care.” Knowing this, Owen and three other HEU members who also work in trades and maintenance – Robert Di Stasio, Mike Rensmaag and Anna Vu – sprang into action. Backed by their local and executive, they took their concerns to the Fraser Health Board, the health minister and NDP MLAs. The decision on the future of the RCH redevelopment is now in the hands of the new government. For Owen and her team, they hope Victoria hears their message and keeps all the work at RCH public.
Patty Gibson PHOTO
FIGHTING CONTRACTING OUT
COMFORTING HER PATIENTS is always top of mind for Kim Benke. When she successfully draws someone’s blood on her first attempt, she feels particularly rewarded – especially when patients warn her it will be difficult. And when Kim recognizes warning signs that someone may be in danger of fainting, she has learned to be visibly calm to help reduce patients’ anxiety. Originally from Prince George, Kim trained at Vancouver Community College as a lab assistant, and worked up north before she and her husband moved to Penticton in 2006. “The job of a lab assistant is essential to help diagnose a patient’s illness,” says Kim. “It is more vital than most people realize because bloodwork diagnosis is such a fundamental part of health care.” Kim’s workdays include a variety of shifts at Penticton Regional Hospital and some off-site shifts in Summerland or Keremeos. Her primary duties include drawing blood from patients, data entry processing of patient requisitions, preparing/packaging samples to be analyzed, assisting co-workers who require help with patients, and cardiac monitoring using ECGs and Holter monitors. Being prepared for the unexpected is “The job of a lab assistant always a challenge, but so is working shortstaffed and training/orientating others dur- is essential to help diagnose ing her shifts. However, one of the things a patient’s illness. It is more she likes best about her job is hearing the vital than most people fascinating stories her senior patients share realize.” when she works with them. Kim also works with children, who can be very challenging. “For first-timers under two years of age, it usually goes smoothly because they don’t understand what’s going on,” she says. But if it is the second time, or more, the child is likely to make a fuss. And if they are a toddler, she asks for help because they are “strong and wiggly”. Kim is also a dedicated activist who has attended two HEU conventions. She is chair of her local and chief shop steward. “Participating in Winter School 2017 at Harrison Hot Springs really revved me up,” says Kim. “It was great to meet other activists from other unions because it comforted me to know we have the same problems and issues.”
And although an advisory council on national pharmacare was announced in the 2018 federal budget, supporters fear the results will fall far short of the comprehensive plan Canadians are hoping for. Right now, about two-thirds of Canadians rely on private insurance, mostly through work-based plans that are bolstered in part by public subsidies. Each province and territory provides a different form of subsidy. There are also differences in the medications each province will cover, with more expensive and uncommon ones covered on a
case-by-case basis, or not at all. In B.C., pharmacare will pay 70 to 100 per cent of drug costs after certain spending thresholds are reached, based on household income. And polls show 29 per cent of British Columbians – more than any other province in Canada – reveal that they, or someone else in their household, hasn’t taken medication as prescribed because they couldn’t afford to. Bulk nationwide purchasing could give Canada the ability to negotiate pricing with pharmaceutical companies, making expensive
drugs more economical, and reducing the cost of all prescriptions. The 2018 federal budget announced the creation of an advisory council to lay out options for a new, national pharmacare plan. But Finance Minister Bill Morneau later said it would focus on finding ways to “fill the gaps” in our current patchwork system of coverage. Supporters of a national plan urge continued pressure to let government know Canadians want full access to the medications that are an essential part of universal health care. Find out more at <aplanforeveryone.ca>. Spring 2018 | GUARDIAN 13
Mental health by the numbers HEU members know firsthand the impact mental health has on workers and workplaces. Here’s a pop quiz with some interesting Canadian statistics. . In Canada, the annual cost of mental health services is: a) $5 billion b) $15 billion c) $51 billion
What proportion of workers will suffer from a mental health condition each year? a) Twenty-five per cent b) Twenty per cent c) Fifty per cent What proportion of workers believes that workplace stress contributed to their mental health problem? a) 1/5 b) 1/3 c) 2/3 How long do the majority of people with a mental health problem wait before telling their closest family and friends about it? a) Two months b) Seven months c) Over a year What proportion of people with mental health problems reported stigma affecting their friendships? a) Fifteen per cent b) Forty-five per cent c) Sixty-five per cent
What percentage of people with mental health problems will not seek help due to the stigma associated with being labelled mentally ill? a) Twenty-five per cent b) Sixty per cent c) Seventy per cent
The average cost per year to accommodate a worker with a disability is: a) $500 b) $1,200 c) $6,800 d) $11,300
JOIN THE CONVERSATION | HEU members and their allies are actively using Facebook and other social media platforms to talk about how to make their workplaces safer, protect good jobs and provide better care. Here is a sample.
I see our hospital staff working tirelessly days on end at over capacity! They are amazing and our new facilities are great. But we need to put money into training more nursing staff and fully staff all the new wings!
I work in a bath team. 7 to 11:30, 6 residents in complex care, 15 minutes report, 15 minutes break, organize the shower room, help other residents with breakfast … I love my job but lately I need extra time to finish.
• Deborah Strandberg MK •
Our brand new hospital has a total increase of 16 whole beds! We now have patients in sunrooms and hallways. At last count of our 95 beds 32 were occupied by ALC patients (Awaiting Long Term Care). What a healthcare disaster! • Erin Roach •
FINNISH MANOR Once again, no respect for seniors, Even without a union it should be against the labour code to lay people off for no other reason than hiring cheaper help. The residents at senior care homes consider staff as family. Many times they have no one else. This is beyond disgusting. • Gail Hamill Beau •
Shame Shame Shame on these heartless owners of Burnaby’s Finnish Manor… elderly people count on these caring souls, the same friendly faces every day. To lose them due to greed is beyond disgusting. • Kathy C. Constantine •
• Yvonne Campbell •
The sad part of all of this is that very seldom does the government funding go to the front line workers. Any government funded monies needs to be targeted funds in order to ensure that it is going to where it is intended to go. • Brenda Whyte •
CONTRACTING OUT I think that the government has been contracting out the operation of long term care facilities for a long time. The guidelines are extremely low in terms of care. If children in day cares received the same lack of care time our fragile adults receive, there would be riots in the streets. • Helen Shipston •
Get connected Stay connected
In any given week, how many Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems or illnesses? a) 500,000 b) 1,000,000 c) 50,000
Elaine Littmann PHOTO
Answers: 1.c 2.b 3.c 4.c 5.c 6.b 7.a 8.a Sources: Mental Health Commission of Canada, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, UK Time to Change Survey (2016) 14 GUARDIAN | Spring 2018
Renal Technician | HEU veteran and Surrey local chair Elaine May loves her job as a renal technician at Newton Community Dialysis Unit. “I enjoy interacting with patients and learning about their life experiences. I reassure new patients and answer questions about dialysis. Because they come here regularly, you really get to know the patients.”
HEU PEOPLE RETIREMENTS After 34 years at Cumberland Health Centre, long-time HEU member Jacqueline (Jacquie) Mowatt retired in August 2017. She worked as a housekeeping/ laundry supervisor. On her local executive, Jacquie served as senior trustee and senior trustee-elect. “Cumberland Health Centre was a great place to work,” she says, “because there are many caring, lovely people to work with.” As a retiree, Jacquie hopes to spend more time looking after her grandsons. She also plans to travel and continue sailing on the West Coast, possibly to Alaska. HEU wishes Jacquie all the best in her retirement.
IN MEMORIAM Robert (Derek) Allan (age 65) passed away peacefully on November 27, 2017. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Derek moved across the country to Sidney, B.C. in 1968. Derek worked on Vancouver Island as a bartender for more than 30 years, before going into the janitorial business. For the past nine years, he worked as a housekeeper for Marquise at Glengarry Hospital. Dedicated to his work, Derek loved being around seniors and hearing them reminisce about their lives. A hockey player until his early 40s, Derek also enjoyed playing slow pitch baseball until he lost his sight in one eye. Derek also loved to travel. Derek will be deeply missed by his life partner Sally, his son and extended family, along with the Glengarry residents and his many colleagues. On October 18, 2017, Jason Ridinger (age 45) died unexpectedly. He worked as a cook and kitchen helper at Fir Park Village/Echo Village in Port Alberni. Jason grew up in Gold River. After graduation, he worked in Victoria for more than 15 years for Clipper Navigation, and ran his own DJ company. He then moved to Port Alberni with his family. In his leisure time, Jason loved fishing, camping, swimming, caring for his hobby farm, and spending time with his family. Described as a loving and caring man, Jason’s smile and laughter were infectious. Jason loved cooking for the seniors at his workplace as he saw the happiness his food brought to them. As his local’s chief shop steward, Jason worked tirelessly to defend the rights of his fellow union members. His knowledge and passion were respected and greatly appreciated by all his union workmates. Jason will be deeply missed by his spouse and children, his colleagues, and the residents.
49,000 members in 276 locals
Carolyne Rychly (age 57) passed away on December 19, 2017. She worked as a payroll clerk at B.C. Clinical and Support Services Society (BCCSS), Willingdon local. Carolyne began her work life in payroll at Riverview as a BCGEU member, then became an HEU member – working at PHSA local from 2004 until 2011, when she began work at BCCSS/Willingdon local. A long-time activist, Carolyne served in many positions on her local executive, including chairperson, vice-chair, assistant secretary-treasurer, shop steward and OH&S steward. She is remembered as a hard worker and a strong union advocate. “Carolyne worked relentlessly for the members of HEU, always trying to help to make it a better workplace for everyone,” said Willingdon local chair Jenine Candy. “She was an amazing lady, who would give or do anything for anyone.” Remembered for her keen sense of humour and kindness, Carolyne will be missed by her family and colleagues.
CONGRATULATIONS Since September 2017, the BC NDP government has made several appointments to the province’s health authority boards. HEU extends congratulations to long-time HEU activist Joyce Beddow (Ashcroft local) and retired HEU communications officer Margi Blamey. Beddow, appointed to the Interior Health Authority board, has been a community and labour activist for more than three decades. She’s passionate about seniors’ care and access to quality health care in rural areas. A former chair of HEU’s Ashcroft local, Beddow served three terms on the FBA’s bargaining committee, and is the current president of Lac La Hache Kids Club. And taking a seat on the Fraser Health Authority board, Blamey has an extensive background advocating for labour rights, safer workplaces, and social justice. Prior to HEU, Blamey worked for Health Canada. She also was an active member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. “Margi and Joyce will bring a wealth of experience and progressive views on health care to their new positions,” says HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside. “And they both have a deep understanding and respect for the critical work HEU members do in providing care to British Columbians.”
Did you know that HEU has five standing committees? Working with HEU’s equity officers, they provide outreach and advocacy to HEU members, and work in solidarity with other social justice groups. To learn more, call 1.800.663.5813 to speak with Equity Officer Sharryn Modder or Jennifer Efting.
Ethnic Diversity • Indigenous Peoples• Pink Triangle • People with disAbilities • Women
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Spring 2018 | GUARDIAN 15
Health care is one of the most dangerous occupations in B.C.
Guardian HOSPITAL EMPLOYEES’ UNION
SPRING 2018 • VOL. 36 • NO. 1
E C N E L O I V e sto p t h #increaseSTAFFING # reasonableWORKLOADS
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WORKLOAD OVERLOAD HEU members are toiling in a system that is literally bursting at the seams.