Guardian HOSPITAL EMPLOYEES’ UNION
AGREEMENT NUMBER 40007486
RETURN TO The Guardian 5000 North Fraser Way Burnaby, B.C. V5J 5M3
Caelie Frampton PHOTO
SUMMER 2017 • VOL. 35 • NO. 2
HEU support workers rally for a fair deal
Guardian HOSPITAL EMPLOYEES’ UNION
What’s happening on the ground? Members attending regional meetings tackle common issues
Private clinics For-profit clinics are charging patients extra fees costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars | 3
Seniors’ care Members share testimonials from the front line | 5
Equity conference Vancouver gathering deepens understanding about the roots of discrimination | 8
GEARING UP | Members above attended HEU’s Northern regional meeting — one of five regional meetings held this spring — to tackle workplace issues and develop strategies.
AS THE GUARDIAN GOES
8 13 COLUMNS
Kamloops-Thompson local strengthens steward base | 13
A salute to the pioneers who paved the way, today’s activists, and tomorrow’s leaders | 6
HEU members helped shape a new political landscape in B.C. | 6
to press, HEU members in the Interior and the North are helping evacuate patients and residents to safer locations as fire crews battle more than 200 fires raging throughout central B.C. Similar to previous emergencies, members are stepping up to the urgency of the situation – and in this case, travelling to affected communities to provide ongoing care to evacuees, while trying to ensure their own families and homes are safe. “When tragedies happen, the skill and commitment that our members bring to their jobs every day, comes to the fore,” says HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside. “In times like this, it gives us all pause to recognize the devotion and selflessness that HEU members exercise in providing care, regardless of circumstance.” Whiteside says the union had recently completed a series of regional meetings in June, where members came together to share information, develop strategies, and discuss issues unfolding in their workplaces. And although each of the five regional meetings had its own unique approach, many of the issues that emerged were shared in common. These included heavy workloads, staffing shortages that increase health and safety risks, and the complicated issues resulting from increased pressures on
the health care system, privatization and restructuring. Each regional meeting also heard an equity presentation on reconciliation, as part of the union’s mandate to support Indigenous peoples’ struggle for justice. Another theme that emerged across the five regions was the need to continue building robust shop steward networks, which are critical to defending members’ rights as well as building member power in the workplace.
One theme that emerged across the five regions was the need to continue building robust shop steward networks. “Our stewards are the eyes and ears of their facilities,” says Whiteside. “They know the systemic issues that need to be addressed by the union at all levels, and that information is absolutely invaluable in helping develop our advocacy and bargaining agendas.” At the Victoria meeting, members also spent time developing strategies on how to implement the union’s five-year plan. In the North, members participated in an exercise to revision health care. In the Interior, members delved into the issue of steward fatigue and the complex situations they’re confronting. Members at the Fraser meeting
undertook an exercise designed to learn about the diversity of the region’s membership, and discovered that in most cases, some form of discrimination had sparked their interest in joining the union or becoming a union activist. And in Vancouver Coastal, members discussed occupational health and safety issues, gender equality, and the impact of domestic abuse in the workplace. Whiteside says hearing from members firsthand about what’s happening on the ground is critical as the union prepares to deal with a new government in a new political environment, and prepare for public sector bargaining in 2019. And following up on the spring’s regional meetings, members will gather in early October for HEU’s fall school. The weeklong session will focus on building member power within the union. “Consistent with our five-year plan, the fall school will emphasize increasing member activism by building relationships, increasing our capacity, increasing member mobilization and strengthening equity across the union,” says Whiteside. And it will build on our ongoing education program, which is aimed at equipping HEU members with the tools and knowledge they need to defend members’ rights and confront health and safety challenges.
Summer 2017 | GUARDIAN 1
COMMENT Jennifer Whiteside | Secretary-Business Manager Summer is a time of change and renewal. With a new NDP government under Premier John Horgan, we’re now on the brink of major political change in B.C., with all its possibilities and uncertainties.
Union gears up for busy months ahead Internally, our focus is on bargaining. Most HEU members will be involved in collective bargaining over the next two years. We must support the 4,000 HEU members in our contracted support service sector, who are currently negotiating new contracts, and prepare the ground for public sector bargaining, which is less than two years away. In our independent long-term care sector, bargaining is ongoing, as is our union’s advocacy for action on the staffing crisis and the practice of repeated contracting out. As we prepare for the work ahead, we must ask: What will we stand up for? Will we stand up for dignity and fairness? Decent wages? Safe work? Will we stand up for ourselves and each other? We’ll take up these issues at October’s fall school, where we’ll focus on building the fight for decent conditions for all our members. To succeed, we need our union to be a place where every member belongs. That’s why we’ll be conducting a comprehensive equity audit as mandated at our 2016 biennial convention. It will help us determine how representative we are of equity-seeking groups within HEU, how we create space for – and support the work of – those groups, and what we must change to meet the evolving needs of our diverse membership. There’s no time to sit back. It’s exciting times ahead.
Guardian archives PHOTO
THROWBACK HEU HISTORY
WHAT A SPRING WE’VE HAD! From the resounding success of the first phase of our Care Can’t Wait campaign and an intense provincial election, to our thought-provoking equity conference, contracted support service bargaining, and successful regional meetings, the union has been busy on all fronts. Summer is a time of change and renewal. With a new NDP government under Premier John Horgan, we’re now on the brink of major political change in B.C., with all its possibilities and uncertainties. Nearly 60 per cent of voters showed Christy Clark and the BC Liberals the door, sending a clear message that it’s time for a government who’s in touch with the real needs of ordinary citizens. A minority government means we are in a complex political environment. With new leadership that’s committed to a different approach, our work begins anew, and in earnest. If we have learned anything over our 73-year history, it’s that change is something we have to work at. And it takes time. Externally, we need to educate a new government, and their Green Party partners, on the value of HEU members’ work, and what it will take to improve their working conditions and the standard of care provided in B.C.’s health care facilities and community social service agencies, after 16 years of neglect.
HEALTH UNIONS’ LEGAL TEAM PREPARES SUPREME COURT CASE Ten years ago, on June 8, 2007, HEU members scored a landmark victory when the Supreme Court of Canada proclaimed, for the first time in Canadian history, that collective bargaining is a constitutional right protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That victory followed a five-year legal battle led by HEU and other 2 GUARDIAN | Summer 2017
health care unions against the BC Liberals’ Bill 29 – a law that cleared the way for privatizing support services in health care. Pictured above is the union’s legal team, led by Joseph Arvay (centre), which forcefully argued that Bill 29 had violated health care workers’ charterprotected equality and freedom of association rights.
Your union. Your paper.
Private clinics run rampant in B.C.
GROUND ZERO | B.C. and Quebec have the highest number of private clinics overbilling patients in Canada.
In addition, 250 Ontario patients detailed instances in which they were charged for care. Many said they experienced financial hardship as a result, cutting back on food, taking out loans and finding ways to pull together money for these charges. Responding to hard-hitting coverage by the Globe and Mail and other media, federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott pledged to defend the Canada Health Act, calling the fees “unlawful” and “abusive.” And she made it clear to her provincial counterparts that the federal government will take further action. The Canada Health Act legislates the checks and balances that provinces and territories must meet to receive federal funding to deliver health care. It requires that “medically necessary care” be accessible and provided publicly, without user-fees or extra-billing.
“The federal government is obligated to uphold the law. It has the power to penalize provinces that fail to comply,” says Adrienne Silnicki from the Canadian Health Coalition.
the past two decades, private clinics have taken advantage of the lack of government enforcement, which ends up allowing private clinic owners to profit from their patients. The coalitions recognize that governments are not adequately supporting public health care to meet the needs of Canadians, resulting in unacceptably long wait times for some procedures. The report urges governments to address wait times by making better use of public hospital capacity, utilizing unused operating rooms, and building public specialty surgical centres. And they’re calling for improvements in home and community care. “Canadians have the right to access public health care in a timely manner, without the impact of user-fees and extra charges,” says Lynes-Ford. “We have come to expect, and
“As private clinics take over services provided Caelie Frampton PHOTO
for-profit clinics across Canada, and right here in B.C., are being charged additional fees amounting to hundreds or even thousands of dollars for medical care. It’s an illegal practice and regulators are doing little to stop it. Those are the findings of a new report – Private Clinics and the Threat to Public Medicare in Canada – released in June by Canada’s health coalitions. The report calls B.C. and Quebec “ground zero” for privatization in Canada as both provinces have the highest number of private clinics overbilling patients. Of the 34 private clinics surveyed in B.C., 30 over-charged their patients. It also documents how private clinics are expanding, becoming more aggressive, and charging patients out-of-pocket for procedures that are provided at no cost in the public system. Those extra charges can run as high as five times more than the cost in the public system. And in some cases, they are double-dipping – billing individual patients and public health plans for the same procedures. “As private clinics take over services provided by public hospitals, some clinic owners are taking advantage of patients in order to turn a profit,” says Adam LynesFord, BC Health Coalition campaigner. As part of the study, potential patients were quoted prices ranging from $575 to $995 for an MRI, from $3,600 to $10,000 for minor knee surgery, and from $1,000 to $5,000 for cataract surgery.
Caelie Frampton PHOTO
PATIENTS WHO access private,
Adam Lynes-Ford, BC Health Coalition campaigner.
To date, B.C. is the only province that’s been fined by the federal government. In fact, B.C. has been fined every year over the past five years for violating the Canada Health Act, to a total of approximately one million dollars. The report points out that over
by public hospitals, some clinic owners are taking advantage of patients in order to turn a profit.” highly value, that health care is provided without charge and paid for through our tax system.” The report is available online at <www.bchealthcoalition.ca>. HEU is a founding member of the BC Health Coalition. CAELIE FRAMPTON
Shelley Bridge PHOTO
Privatizing laundry is a dirty business More than 100 HEU members were recently laid off when the Interior Health Authority (IHA) forged ahead with its plan to privatize hospital laundry services in five major cities. The union and activists launched a comprehensive, 18-month fightback campaign, which generated public and political support – including 13,000 petition signatures and several city councils passing motions opposing the contracting-out scheme in their communities.
Throughout the process, the health authority maintained its in-house laundry service was run efficiently by unionized workers and that wages were never an issue. Further, the IHA praised the standard of service delivery as a model used in other hospitals across the country. The IHA cited the capital costs to upgrade and replace laundry equipment as the sole purpose for privatization – although the actual costs and timelines were a constantly moving target. Simon Fraser University economist Marvin Shaffer reviewed IHA internal documents obtained
through the Freedom of Information process and concluded that IHA failed to establish a valid business case for privatizing hospital laundry services. Despite the push back, the IHA awarded a 20-year contract to private company Ecotex, worth an estimated $266 million. Over the summer, hospital laundry staff worked their final shifts in Vernon (June 1), Kelowna (June 15), Penticton (June 29), Kamloops (July 20) and Nelson (September 14). “It’s disappointing and shocking that the IHA has demonstrated such disregard for the quality of
Summer 2017 | GUARDIAN 3
IT’S THE LAW
Human Rights Code explicitly protects transgender persons WITH PRIDE celebrations taking place across the province, summer seems the right time to highlight an important victory for the LGBTQ+ community. Last July, after years of pressure from activists and the BC NDP, the provincial government introduced legislation to make the Human Rights Code more explicit in the protections it affords transgender persons in British Columbia. The Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination against historically disadvantaged groups in employment, housing and services available to the public. For example, discrimination is prohibited on the basis of race, religion, disability, age, family status, sex and sexual orientation. But until last July, there was no mention of gender identity or expression. In 2000, the British Columbia Supreme Court found that transgender persons were still entitled to the Code’s protection under the ground of sex, but this was not widely known. As BC NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert explained when the amendment was discussed in the legislature, “if you talk to somebody who’s transgender or gender variant, many of them would tell you that no, when reading the Human Rights Code, it does not say gender identity. It does not say gender expression.” It’s impossible to enforce a law if you don’t know that the law is there to protect you. By adding the grounds explicitly, an employer, landlord or service-provider reading the Code will know with certainty that transgender people are protected. More than symbolism, this change has the potential to both deter discrimination and empower transgender persons to enforce their right to equality. This change also brings B.C. in line with other jurisdictions across Canada that also explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. KAITY COOPER
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Filing incident reports protects everyone Managers cannot intimidate workers for doing so IF IT ISN’T DOCUMENTED, then it didn’t
happen. That’s why it’s crucial for HEU members to file occupational health and safety incident reports for all workplace injuries. These may include: slips, trips and falls; back strain and other musculoskeletal injuries; exposure to hazardous materials or infectious diseases; needlestick injuries; chemical or mercury spills; entering private homes with poor lighting, broken stairs or rat infestations, and violent incidents. Health care workers – who have one of the highest injury rates in any sector – are often pushed to the limit with crushing workloads, insufficient supplies, and staffing shortages, making it challenging to complete tasks on time or deliver quality services. When workers are rushed, the probability of an “accident” increases – not only does the worker risk getting hurt, but also an injury to a patient, client or resident under their care may occur. Nobody wins in that situation, and managers will not support a worker if an incident occurs while taking a “short cut” to get a job done. By law, all workers have the right to refuse unsafe work. But with mounting workplace pressures, sometimes workers make judgement calls that could jeopardize their safety.
It’s every worker’s right to file a report, and managers cannot intimidate workers for doing so. When an employer receives multiple reports from one work site or one work area, they’ll be able to determine a trend, or recognize safety hazards that need to be urgently addressed – such as repairing equipment or revising staffing levels.
When an employer receives multiple reports from one work site or one work area, they’ll be able to determine a trend, or recognize safety hazards that need to be urgently addressed. Another vital reason for documenting is in the case of soft tissue damage which may occur over an extended period. A cumulative injury is hard to prove if you can’t pinpoint a starting time for symptoms or when an incident happened. Once an incident report is filed, the local health and safety committee will review it, conduct a thorough investigation, and make recommendations. It’s important to follow up with an OH&S steward on the status of a report. For more information, talk to a local OH&S or shop steward. BRENDA WHITEHALL
YOUR UNION service our members have worked so hard to provide, and the economic well-being of the communities in which they work,” says HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside.
Get your Pride on! Every summer, HEU takes part in Pride festivities throughout the province. Members, staff, family and friends show their solidarity by marching in parades, and distributing popular union swag – such as Pride fans and bubbles – to celebrate the diversity of our union and salute our LGBTQ+ 4 GUARDIAN | Summer 2017
sisters, brothers and friends. “As a social justice union, it’s important for HEU to participate in Pride events because we care about upholding the human rights of all people, regardless of gender expression or sexual orientation,” says HEU president Victor Elkins. “Pride is a joyous celebration, and also a time to reflect on the radical roots of the LGBTQ+ justice movement, with a proud history of community organizing and resistance.” Check the HEU website for a listing of Pride parades, and follow us on social media to view our photo galleries. And don’t
miss the 2017 Vancouver Queer Film Festival (August 10-20) at various venues around the city. Once again, HEU and the Pink Triangle Standing Committee are proud sponsors of the festival. The union is the screening sponsor for the documentary film The Death & Life of Marsha P. Johnson. A transgender woman of colour, Johnson was an AIDS activist and a trailblazer of the 1969 Stonewall rebellion. In 1992, Johnson’s body was found in the Hudson River. Although ruled a suicide, Academy Award-nominated director David Frances investigates the
mysterious circumstances surrounding Johnson’s death in this poignant film. The Death & Life of Marsha P. Johnson screens at York Theatre on August 18 at 9:30 p.m.
HEU’s fall school Building on the success and popularity of last year’s HEU summer school, the union will host a weeklong, in-residence fall school program (October 15-20) at the Anvil Centre in New Westminster. “Expanding Our Base of Power” is this year’s theme. Through a variety of exercises, practice and tools, members will share
of total LTC beds are in the for-profit sector – a 42% increase since 2000.
Testimonials from the frontline
“I work in a long-term care facility and one-and-a-half times higher than all other more often than not we are working short,” workplaces combined. wrote a care aide from the Interior. “There In long-term care facilities, the rate is more are two care aides from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. than four times higher. with 15 residents, and many of them have In the health care sector, care aides are extreme behaviours. I have been physically injured more than any other group, making attacked on many occasions, and am verbally up 41 per cent of the sector’s injury claims. attacked daily. I hope things will change drasThese statistics are daunting. But they don’t tically for residents’ sake as well as safety of show the human side of the story. As workers staff.” in health care, HEU members know exactly The hectic pace in seniors’ care homes, what those stats mean. coupled with heavy workloads and working Over the course of the union’s Care Can’t short, can also lead to burnout. On Vancouver Wait campaign, HEU collected hundreds of Island, one member wrote about the despertestimonials from ation she feels every day. members that show “It’s no wonder there are so many “It’s no wonder there what workers face health care workers with workare so many health care daily. The followworkers with working stories are from related injuries, burnout and related injuries, burnmembers working stress. We try our very best, and it out and stress. We try in for-profit, public- just doesn’t seem to be enough. our very best, and it ly funded, B.C. care just doesn’t seem to be homes that do not meet the government’s enough. When someone calls in sick, we end own minimum staffing guidelines. up working even shorter than we already are. In B.C.’s heartland, understaffing has led We can’t keep this up much longer. We need to some care aides being subjected to violent more help. That’s the bottom line, especially attacks. They worry about their ability to if we are going to give the kind of care and stay safe while providing care to vulnerable compassion our seniors so deserve.” seniors. In the Lower Mainland, another member recently talked about what it’s like to work as one of two care aides on the night shift in a three-floor, 51-person, locked dementia ward. “Even when two staff are there, it is chaos,” she says. “One time, a resident didn’t realize that she couldn’t get to the bathroom herself, so she stood up to go, but we weren’t there – we were doing a round on another floor and she had a really bad fall. We try our best, but we cannot do it all. I leave work feeling defeated, like there is no end to this.” It’s stories like these from the front line that show how urgent the staffing crisis has become in too many of the province’s care homes. Understaffing and heavy workloads put workers and the seniors they care for at AT RISK | Without enough staff on shift, seniors risk. cannot access the timely care they need.
Caelie Frampton PHOTOS
IN B.C., THE HEALTH sector injury rate is
UNDERSTAFFING | HEU’s Care Can’t Wait campaign will continue to demand action on the working and caring conditions in longterm care.
“Seniors are not getting the care they deserve,” says HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside. “And workers are feeling the impact of the understaffing and underfunding crisis.” She says HEU’s Care Can’t Wait campaign will continue to demand action on the working and caring conditions in long-term care. And, she says, the next phase of the campaign will also emphasize the urgent need to end contracting out and contract-flipping – where entire staff teams can be laid off in one fell swoop. For more information or to share a testimonial, please visit <www.carecantwait.ca>. SARA ROZELL
knowledge and experiences to build stronger relationships and to organize around defending workers’ rights in order to achieve gains in contract negotiations. This includes reflecting on HEU’s, and our members’, resilient struggles and historical achievements, as well as exploring how current struggles and successes bring workers together to increase our collective power. It’s a great opportunity for both new and experienced activists. So, if you’re committed to developing grassroots leadership skills to build strong, inclusive workplaces that defend and improve rights
and conditions, you should apply for this in-depth training opportunity. All applications must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, August 25 at the HEU Provincial Office in Burnaby.
Education opportunities This spring, nearly 400 HEU members attended union workshops and courses. Members in Kamloops, Kelowna, Nelson and Prince George participated in HEU’s two-day introductory occupational health and safety program. Designed for members and alternates of work-
place Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) committees, the training focuses on the structure, roles and functions of the JOHS committee, along with tools to organize around workplace health and safety concerns. The course will run on the Island and in the Lower Mainland this fall. The union also taught a more basic OH&S Know and Assert Your Rights workshop open to all members. This one-day workshop covers workers’ legal right to a safe workplace, what employers must do to eliminate or minimize the risk of injury, and how to
apply the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation to address workload, on-the-job violence, bullying and harassment. Members also took part in introductory shop steward workshops. And in September, HEU is holding a Supervisors Conference in Kamloops (Sept. 6-7) and in Burnaby (Sept. 26-27). It will assist members in supervisor positions to gain effective interpersonal, communications and conflict-resolution skills. And in the fall, watch for information on a new OH&S Mental Health Workshop to be held in Burnaby later in November.
Summer 2017 | GUARDIAN 5
WORKING FOR YOU
When non-unionized workers decide they want to join HEU, our dedicated organizing team provides the advice and assistance they need to conduct a successful organizing drive that will help them improve their lives and working conditions as unionized employees. Each step of the way, our organizing staff are there to meet with workers in person or by phone, answer their questions, and provide support. They’re also there to explain their right to join a union, and the protections that B.C.’s Labour Code provides.
Sara Rozell PHOTO
ORGANIZING THE UNORGANIZED
Donisa Bernardo | Financial Secretary
On Labour Day, we salute all workers – pioneers who paved the way, today’s activists, and tomorrow’s leaders.
BEFORE LONG, our vacations will
end, schools will re-open, and autumn will arrive. For some, Labour Day marks a return to routine. For others, it’s a time to reevaluate goals. For many, it’s a holiday weekend with family and friends. But for me, it’s a day to celebrate the struggles and achievements of Canada’s labour movement. It’s been a long and rocky road to reach this point, but the journey is far from over. The six-week Winnipeg General Strike in 1919 – when 30,000 workers walked off the job over wages, working conditions and unfair bargaining – is perhaps Canada’s most celebrated example of working class revolt against archaic employment laws and substandard work environments. But the earliest reported labour unrest occurred in 1872 when Hamilton, Ontario workers demanded a nine-hour workday, which motivated the Toronto Printers Union to go on strike for a shorter workweek. Their actions crippled the local publishing industry, and inspired other workers to hit the streets in solidarity. Soon, 10,000 marchers arrived at Queen’s Park, Toronto’s political hub.
Unions were illegal
Back then, unions were illegal, which makes their bold actions even more daring. Strike organizers were jailed for conspiracy, police attacked picketers, and some protesters died defending their rights. This led Prime Minister John A. Macdonald to pass the Trade Union Act, which decriminalized unions. Other cities quickly joined the movement, recognizing that united action draws public and political attention. During the early-20th century industrial revolution, union membership was exclusive to men. But when women entered the workforce in World War I, some trailblazers organized federations to protect themselves. In 1931, more than 500 Toronto textile workers went on a 10-week strike. Led by the Ladies Garment Workers Union Local 72, women demanded union recognition, wage increases, humane work hours, and an end to employer harassment. Those demands weren’t achieved, but their strike raised awareness of gender-based wage discrimination. Over the years, unions – like HEU – have successfully lobbied for pay equity, maternity leave, paid vacation and sick leave, overtime pay, pensions, health and safety regulations, medical and dental benefits. We’re still fighting for affordable child care. We’re still fighting for fair contracts. And we’re still fighting to protect migrant and temporary foreign workers from poverty-level wages in sweatshop conditions. Nothing has come easily, and we can’t afford to go backwards. That’s why this Labour Day, we salute all workers – pioneers who paved the way, today’s activists, and tomorrow’s leaders.
6 GUARDIAN | Summer 2017
Victor Elkins | President
PRESIDENT’S DESK We can be proud that we used our collective voice and resources to help shape a new political landscape in this province.
IT TRULY WAS a provincial election like
no other. Now, with a minority NDP government, supported by the Green Party, taking up the reins of power in Victoria, we are hopeful for better days ahead. And like the rest of the province’s labour movement, we are ready to roll up our sleeves and work with a government who knows many of our issues, and respects working people and their organizations. This alone is a huge improvement after 16 years of rule under the Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark BC Liberals.
Out on the campaign trail this spring, so many HEU members got involved in our democratic electoral process. Some worked on campaigns. Others attended events and rallies. And many used social media to urge their co-workers, friends and families to cast a ballot, and make it count for change. There’s no question, together we made a difference. Now, with the results in, our political action work begins again in a new political environment. Some members have asked me why we put so much effort into calling for a change of government. During elections, we work hard to encourage members to participate and exercise their democratic right to vote. But the union’s political action work doesn’t stop there. Between elections, we use our collective voice to press for the policies and changes needed to improve our members’ lives at work and in their communities. Then, when an election is called, it provides us with an opportunity to carry those positions forward to the ballot box.
Building a better B.C.
HEU members – like the vast majority of working people – have suffered a great deal of damage because of the policies legislated by the BC Liberals. So have our health care system, social services agencies, schools and post-secondary institutions, municipalities, our environment, and much more. We know that it will take significant time and effort for any government to undo that damage, where it can. However, no matter the uncertainties ahead, we can be proud that we have used our collective voice and resources to help shape a new political landscape in this province. But regardless of who is in power, our job remains the same – to champion the changes needed to build a better B.C. for all of us.
CONTRACTED SUPPORT SERVICE WORKERS
Without labour, nothing prospers.” ~ SOPHOCLES
Standing up, standing strong ers – on a procession through their respective facilities and presented them to their corporate managers. “It felt great as we walked together down the halls of the hospital – a group of Sodexo dietary workers and Compass housekeepers, marching with our petition banner to the offices of both employers,” says Lions Gate Hospital dietary worker Paula Mann.
Jean Medina PHOTO
Challenging health authorities
TAKING ACTION | Members employed by Compass Crothall at Victoria General Hospital march a 2,400 signature banner through the hall to their managers in late May. AFTER MORE THAN A YEAR at the nego-
tiating table and a series of member actions this spring, HEU members working in contracted housekeeping and dietary services have boosted their efforts to secure fair and respectful collective agreements. And at the end of June, those efforts culminated in an overwhelming 96 per cent
Members are mobilizing support within the contracted support service sector, and across the union, to demand the respect they deserve.
Eilene Gan PHOTO
strike mandate to back their demands for job security, fair wages, and better working conditions. “Our members have sent a clear message that they’re ready to stand up to their multinational employers to secure badly needed improvements in their collective agreements,” says HEU’s secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside. “They are mobilizing support within the contracted support service sector, and across the union, to demand the respect they deserve.”
HEU members from other parts of the union are also stepping up and getting behind their fellow workers, inside the workplace and out on the sidewalk.
Building solidarity “The signs of cross-union support were very evident on May 1, International Workers’ Day, when hundreds of members from both the support service and facilities sectors wore something orange to express their support,” says Whiteside. That same level of solidarity surfaced again on May 31 when dozens of members attending HEU’s equity conference joined with support service workers for an energizing streetside rally in front of St. Paul’s Hospital. Within the support service sector, the unity of HEU members has grown stronger as contract talks have heated up. Most recently, member solidarity was on display during site-by-site petition deliveries. Earlier this year, over 60 per cent of members across the sector signed a petition outlining their key priorities. Then in late May, HEU delegations at dozens of work sites marched 60 centimetre by 150 centimetre banners – listing all 2,400-plus petition sign-
In early June, members took their case for job security to B.C.’s Vancouver Coastal and Vancouver Island health authorities. As it stands now, when health authorities change contractors, these health care workers are fired. They’re forced to reapply for their jobs, with no guarantee of employment. Then, if an individual is hired back, they start at the bottom with lower wages, fewer benefits, and no seniority. Two years ago, more than 900 workers were fired and forced to reapply for their jobs when Vancouver Coastal changed its cleaning contractor from Aramark to Compass Group. Speaking to the two health authority boards, members asked health authorities to require companies, who bid on support service contracts, to keep the existing workforce with their current wages, seniority, and collective agreements intact. At the June 14 Vancouver Coastal board meeting, CEO Mary Ackenhusen acknowledged support service workers were an important part of the health care team. She then went on to admit the health authority needed to change its approach to how they retain all workers in health care given the affordability challenges in B.C., whether they work for a commercial contractor or are direct employees of the health authorities.
SFU sets example Another public institution, Simon Fraser University (SFU), recently grappled with its responsibilities for support service workers who provide dietary services. Like Vancouver Coastal and Vancouver Island health authorities, it too had contracted out services. But during a recent change of providers, SFU required the incoming company to retain the workforce at wages that were current or better (see page 10). Although bargaining will slow down over the summer, some form of job action is expected following the strike vote. “If it wasn’t clear to Acciona, Aramark, Compass-Marquise and Sodexo before that HEU members are standing together for better jobs, the overwhelming support for job action makes it crystal clear that members mean business,” says Whiteside. “We believe a fair and reasonable agreement is within reach if employers get serious about addressing low wages and a total lack of job security.” NEIL MONCKTON
Summer 2017 | GUARDIAN 7
HEU EQUITY CONFERENCE From learning about residential schools to rallying at a hospital for better working conditions, here’s what some HEU members shared about the impact HEU’s equity conference had on them.
“This conference gave me selfconfidence. I learned how to approach my co-workers and encourage them to be active in the union too. I also know more about struggles in our communities and how we can fight for our rights and unite!”
“This week, I got to see the similarities and differences among HEU members. I realized it’s what makes us a team. I’ll be taking back patience, understanding, and a sense of peace around what the union is about. It isn’t just about grievances; it’s deeper.”
“At this conference, I learned more about reconciliation and colonizatio As a white man, I want to be an ally and an advocate in supporting reconciliation. We need to have a better relationship with Indigenous people moving forward.”
Alvin Magadia works as a housekeeper at Surrey Memorial Hospital
Andria Jewett is a clerical worker at the Prince George Hospital
Mathew Neufeld is a community support worker in Nanaimo
RISING TOGETHER ROOTS, STRUGGLE, STRENGTH “We have to build on the smaller victories to be able to win the big battle… We are the workers and we have the power… There is a lot to do, but there is a lot to win.”
Popular Vancouver singer Dawn Pemberton kicked off the conference with a high-energy performance
coverage by BRENDA WHITEHALL AND CAELIE FRAMPTON
8 GUARDIAN | Summer 2017
These are the words of Sanctuary That sentiment was echoed by Dr. CJ Health Collective’s Byron Cruz, a Rowe of Qmunity, which opened in 1979 Guatemalan refugee, whose mission is to create a safe space for the LGBTQ+ to help migrant workers with precarious community. immigration status gain access to B.C. “We were founded in the trenches. We health services. faced hatred, fear, isolation and death,” His message was one of many at HEU’s said Rowe. “We envision a world where recent equity conference emphasizing there are vibrant, diverse and celebrated that real change can only happen – one queer, trans and two-spirited communistep at a time – if people unite in solidar- ties. A world where individuals live their ity and raise a collective voice for justice. lives fully, free from discrimination.” Chaired by HEU financial secretary Participants also got a preview of Donisa Bernardo, the conference – under the theme Rising “We envision a world where there are Together: Roots, Struggle, Strength vibrant, diverse and celebrated queer, – worked to build solidarity among HEU’s five equity cautrans and two-spirited communities. cuses, and stressed the urgent A world where individuals live their need to keep fighting against lives fully, free from discrimination.” discrimination and injustice. Bringing together more than 120 activists from HEU’s equity-seeking HEU’s upcoming equity audit, as mangroups – Ethnic Diversity, Indigenous dated during the union’s 2016 convenPeoples, Pink Triangle, People with dis- tion, from consultant Natasha Aruliah. Abilities, and Women – participants Aruliah, whose father is currently receivheard from panels of community speak- ing home care support by HEU members, ers who shared stories of resilience, explained the differences between equity, spoke about the struggle for social and equality and liberation, and how ecoeconomic justice, and discussed effi- nomic justice cannot be achieved without cient ways to organize for change. racial and gender justice. “We need to base our work as activists, advocates and representatives on the DISABILITY BENEFITS principles of equity and the practices For any HEU member on disability, ecoof anti-racism,” HEU secretary-business nomic injustice is an unrelenting reality. manager Jennifer Whiteside told delJane Dyson, of Disability Alliance BC, egates, as she highlighted the union’s spoke about cuts to social programs, evolving diversity, and the commitment growing income inequality, and povertyto ensuring every member feels a sense level disability benefit rates. of belonging. “Disability is a strong indicator of In a skyped message, HEU president poverty in B.C. and across Canada,” Victor Elkins underscored the impor- said Dyson, whose organization lobbies tance of advocating for “equity and jus- for improved financial and program suptice for all people, and to make our ports, as well as respect and dignity for union a safe and welcoming place for people with disabilities to help remove the all members.” stigma around those receiving assistance.
Dyson spoke about an Ontario “basic income” pilot project, which has advanced the PWD agenda on housing, child care and other safeguards. “For people with disabilities currently living on assistance, this is a huge improvement.”
ROOTS OF RESISTANCE Sanctuary Health’s Byron Cruz commends HEU for “planting roots” in its unyielding fight for workers’ rights and defending public health care during the last 16 years under the BC Liberals. “These roots of resistance will become a huge tree. A huge forest,” said Cruz. In addition to advocating for health care insurance, Cruz campaigns for “undocumented” families to also have access to public libraries, pools and community centres. Each success story, he says, benefits everyone.
BREAKING THE CYCLE One conference highlight was a poignant interactive exercise led by Angela White of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society to demonstrate how colonialism impacted First Nations communities. Forming a circle, HEU members volunteered to play the roles of Indigenous children, their mothers, grandparents and warriors/protectors, while one member acted as a government official who removed the children. It was a powerful way to open the conversation on reconciliation. “Once that colonialism came in and took away the children from our communities, we need to come together as a society to actually build the strength of this circle again,” said White. Then, her colleague and elder Adeline Brown shared her journey of being taken from Haida Gwaii to an Indian Residential School in Edmonton at age 13. Today, Brown works with other survivors, where she’s attended more than
“I learned that I’m not alone as a gay person who works in health care. It was awesome to be here with family and feel supported. I learned that the union is here for you and I’m grateful.”
Terrence Rodriguez is a care aide at Hamlets at the Westsyde in Kamloops
“Within the ethnic diversity caucus, we all have the shared experience of racial discrimination. We are still fighting to improve things for others in the world. It’s comforting and powerful to know we’re not alone in this fight.” Maylin Rojas works in housekeeping at Acciona in Victoria
“It was great to be around so many people who want to learn. I met so many energetic union members who do something different for themselves, their communities and their locals.” Goma Bharati is a dietary worker at Elim Village in Surrey
RECONCILIATION | Angela White of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society leads an interactive exercise with conference participants to demonstrate how colonialism impacted First Nations communities.
200 hearings in compensation lawsuits against the government. Married for more than 50 years with five children, Brown said she knew education was critical to healing, and earned her Master’s degree in Art Therapy. Her husband, also a survivor, became a commercial airline pilot. “We worked really hard at healing from all of the stuff that happened to us in residential school,” said Brown. “We could have passed all this ugliness down to our children, but we didn’t.” She said it took years to work through the trauma, but
“I felt really connected to other union members while at this conference. I don’t always feel connected at work, but this week I felt like I was part of something that really matters. It’s a great feeling.” Shannon Arbique works in patient care at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Vancouver
Caelie Frampton PHOTOS
is thankful the painful legacy didn’t transfer to the next generation. “That is how we are breaking the cycle within our family,” said Brown. “I learned that I am not the weak person that the Department of Indian Affairs told me I was. When we have that power within ourselves to move forward, we can.” HEU’s equity caucuses will build on their newfound awareness of one another’s struggles for equality and justice, and focus on a committee agenda that supports that learning.
“We need to base our work as activists, advocates and representatives on the principles of equity and the practices of antiracism.”
CHALLENGING OPPRESSION EQUITY IS ABOUT challenging the systems of oppression that exist in society, and the discrimination people face based on race, gender, ethnic background, disability or sexual orientation. That was the key message from Natasha Aruliah during a presentation at the equity conference. Statistically, 19.1 per cent of Canada’s population identifies as racialized. That number is expected to grow to 32 per cent by 2031. HEU’s own member survey shows that 92 per cent of the union’s membership identified in at least one of the five equity categories (women, a person with a disability, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, or racialized). Of these, 40 per cent identified as belonging to at least two categories.
Aruliah emphasized that language is important. The term “equality” is often used as a way to talk about ending discrimination by treating everyone in the same way. But “equality” she explains, doesn’t acknowledge people’s differences and the barriers they may face. By contrast, the term “equity” is about fairness, justice and accommodation. She explained “equity” involves recognizing that some people may face barriers and disadvantages due to social inequalities, which require accommodation to achieve the same outcome. What’s important is not to treat people the same, but to give people the same opportunities. Aruliah has been engaged to work with HEU to conduct a com-
EQUALITY VS EQUITY prehensive Equity Audit of the union’s governance and operations as mandated at HEU’s 2016 convention. The audit will help determine how representative the union is of its equity-seeking groups and what needs to change to meet the evolving needs of HEU’s diverse membership. “The reason this is so important to HEU is that women and people of colour are, and will be,
disproportionately the targets of unfair and unjust labour practices, and are the largest groups of HEU members,” Aruliah told delegates. “Unions work with the issue of classism all of the time. But we have to name racism and sexism and the cultures that create and maintain specific systems of oppression – patriarchy and white supremacy.”
Summer 2017 | GUARDIAN 9
LABOUR CANADA SIGNS ILO AGREEMENT ON COLLECTIVE BARGAINING Canadian unions are welcoming the federal government’s June ratification of the International Labour Organization’s Convention 98, The Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949. “This is a long overdue and important step forward that sends a strong message to the world,” said Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff. “Canada is finally recognizing the crucial role that strong unions and collective bargaining rights play in reducing inequality and building stronger, fair and inclusive economies.” The Convention reinforces the right to collective bargaining and protects all workers from anti-union discrimination, including being forced to give up union membership in order to get a job, or job termination for participating in union activities. Canada’s unions have worked for ratification for decades, but from 1949 until now, successive Canadian governments have refused. Canada is the 165th country to ratify. The United States, Mexico and 20 other countries have yet to ratify.
News from here and around the world
FEDERAL LIBERALS’ BILL C-4
Harper’s anti-union legislation repealed HEU HAS JOINED the country’s
labour movement in welcoming the recent demise of legislation that had been designed to weaken Canada’s unions and make it harder for some workers to join a union. With the adoption of federal Bill C-4 in mid-June, controversial anti-union legislation passed under the former Harper Conservative government two years ago, has been repealed.
required to do so by federal and provincial labour rules. In addition to unions, the legislation was opposed by a broad and diverse group of critics, including Conservative and Liberal senators, police associations, the federal privacy commissioner,
from the government that labour unions and the people who make up their membership are an integral part of Canada’s social fabric.” Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff says that by passing Bill C-4, “the federal government has demonstrated it
“The repeal of these laws is an acknowledgement from the government that labour unions are an integral part of Canada’s social fabric.” Harper’s Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, which would have come into enforcement this year, were hard fought across the country by trade unions and many others who understood the devastating impact they would have on workers’ rights and organizations. Bill C-377 would have required unions, their suppliers and all other businesses they work with to spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours producing and processing expense reports to be reviewed and filed at taxpayer expense. It was especially discriminatory as no similar requirements were introduced or considered for Canadian businesses or employers. As democratic member-based institutions, unions already disclose finances to members and are
RED TAPE | With the repeal of Bill C-377, Stephen Harper’s attempt to tie unions up in red tape, and drain their resources, has failed.
the Canadian Bar Association, the insurance and mutual fund industry and seven provinces, who called it unconstitutional and argued it would cost millions for the federal government to enforce. Bill C-525 would have made it more difficult for workers in federally regulated workplaces to join a union. “We are pleased that the government as well as the NDP, the Greens and the Bloc have worked together to pull away from the Harper government’s vicious attacks on labour,” says CUPE National president Mark Hancock. “The repeal of these draconian laws is an acknowledgement
understands the importance of fair labour relations, and the critical role unions play advancing rights for all Canadian workers.” He says labour activists across the country “organized and campaigned against these bills from the beginning, and this is their victory to celebrate,” adding his thanks to everyone who fought the Harper government’s antiunion legislation over the years. And he recognized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for making good on his campaign promise to repeal the offending legislation, if elected. Bill C-4 passed the Senate of Canada on June 14.
B.C. health authorities can learn from SFU WHEN SIMON Fraser University (SFU) selected a new private sector company this past winter to take over campus food services, what impact did it have? Compass Group lost their 10-year-old contract with SFU. And multinational competitor Sodexo inked a five-year deal, replacing Compass. And what happened to the workers who deliver the service? They kept their jobs. That’s because when Compass packed up, there were no mass firings, as the university contractually required the successful bidder to hire back all staff. On top of that, it stipulated the private contractor had to meet or exceed workers’ current wage rates. Unfortunately, the same could not be said two years ago when the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority flipped a commercial contract to a new private operator. In 2015, U.S.-based Aramark lost the housekeeping 10 GUARDIAN | Summer 2017
It’s time for B.C.’s health authorities to embrace their role as stewards of the public good.
contract to Compass. This led to the termination of 900-plus jobs held by HEU members, whose lives were thrown into chaos. Workers were forced to reapply for their jobs. Wages were cut, benefits and seniority were lost. And in the end, many were not rehired, or they left health care altogether. B.C.’s health authorities could learn from SFU. The university’s leadership spared their contracted workers the hardship and disruption of job loss. They recognized their broader responsibility as a public institution. We should expect no less in health care. These are our hospitals. These are our universities. And what happens to those who work in our public institutions should matter to all British Columbians. It’s time B.C.’s health authorities embrace their role as stewards of the public good, to better serve the societal goals and values that define our province. NEIL MONCKTON
Some workers’ rights on the mend Ontario and Alberta governments are updating their labour relations laws the deck against working people where the rights of working peo- in our province, leaving us with ple and their unions are under one-sided workplace rules that attack, changes that will signifi- favoured employers at the expense cantly improve the lives of some of employees,” says Gil McGowan, Canadian workers are moving for- president of the Alberta Federation ward. of Labour. Nationally, this June, the Trudeau “[The NDP’s] legislation was Liberal government repealed the more than overdue. It will bring anti-union laws brought in by the Alberta’s workplace legislation Harper Conservatives (see page into the 21st century and bring us 10). Provincially, the Alberta and another step closer to the Canadian Ontario governments both intro- mainstream.” duced worker-friendly legislation Not to be outdone, in the same earlier this spring. month, Ontario’s government In late May, Alberta’s NDP gov- released a raft of recommendations ernment unveiled new legisla- as part of its two-year-long review tion to overhaul some of the old- of that province’s labour laws. If est workplace laws in Canada. It’s implemented, these changes will been almost 30 years since that province’s “Generations of right-wing governments employment stanin Alberta stacked the deck against dards and labour working people in our province, relations codes were updated. leaving us with one-sided workplace Under the NDP’s rules that favoured employers.” revamped labour laws, working people in Alberta will have an updated create more opportunity and secuEmployment Standards Code with rity for Ontario workers. some real teeth for enforcement. Like many jurisdictions the world Plus, the government will reshape over, too many Ontario workers the Labour Relations Code to better face growing uncertainty around allow workers to exercise their con- their working conditions. And this stitutional right to join unions and is despite Ontario’s global-leading bargain collectively. economy. Workers are not sharing “Generations of right-wing in the good times, so the report’s 173 governments in Alberta stacked recommendations are the begin-
Kaiser / Postmedia PHOTO
IN STARK CONTRAST to the U.S.,
NEW LEGISLATION | Unionized employees rallied outside the Alberta legislature in April, calling for long overdue amendments to that province’s labour code.
ning of what may be a significant effort to address this imbalance. In particular, the Ontario Liberal government is considering three major reforms that together will help reduce income inequality and improve the rights of the most vulnerable workers. First, part-time, casual, temporary, contract workers, and temporary agency workers will receive equal pay to that of full-time, permanent workers. Second, the minimum wage will rise to $15 per hour by 2019. And third, contract service workers will have protections against contract-flipping in building services such as security, food services and cleaning.
Getting Ontario to take action on reducing the precariousness of workers’ lives has been hard fought, as unions and their allies undertook incredible organizing efforts, including a vibrant Fight for $15 campaign driven by community groups. Looking ahead, the move to more progressive labour legislation is expected to come to B.C. That’s because with the province’s Green Party’s support, the new BC NDP government under Premier John Horgan have made it clear that they intend to strengthen workers’ rights. NEIL MONCKTON
NEWSBITES Campaign demands pharmaceutical industry transparency A new campaign – Open Pharma – is calling for more transparency from the pharmaceutical industry by demanding payments to physicians, including gifts and meals, be made public. Critics argue that doctors who receive kickbacks from pharmaceutical giants may be more likely to prescribe medications those companies manufacture. And this influence may come at the expense of patient care and taxpayer dollars.
In June, 10 pharmaceutical companies voluntarily disclosed they gave more than $48 million to doctors in 2016. There were no details on the monies (i.e. cash payments, or gift incentives), just the release of a lump sum. The push for transparency in the pharmaceutical industry started when the United States passed legislation in 2013 to have payments from as little as $10 reported to the federal government. Britain, France and Denmark have now followed suit. According to the campaign’s website: “In Canada, the recent concern regarding national opioid
guidelines underscores the uneven landscape of disclosure in our health system. Six of the thirteen members of the opioid expert advisory committee had ties to drug companies that manufacture narcotics. And while this should never disqualify opinion, the reporting of such conflicts were inconsistent with previous policies or procedures.” Federal Health Minister Eric Hoskins recently announced he would begin consultations this summer to see if pharmaceutical companies should be required to disclose all payments made to doctors.
Follow the campaign at <http://open-pharma.org/>.
Anbang chairman under investigation in China The chairman of Anbang Insurance – the private insurance and equity firm given the green light by federal and provincial regulators to buy B.C.’s largest chain of nursing homes – has been detained by Chinese authorities in relation to the company’s business practices. According to the international financial press, Wu Xiaohui was detained by authorities in June and unable to continue in his role Summer 2017 | GUARDIAN 11
1 OUT OF 5 CHILDREN IN METRO VANCOUVER LIVE IN POVERTY. FOR ABORIGINAL CHILDREN IT’S 1 OUT OF 3. - FIRST CALL BC 2016 REPORT CARD
GENDER PAY GAP
Canadian women still earn 87 cents on the dollar POVERTY IS most often linked to unemploy-
ment. But extensive research by organizations – like the United Nations (UN), Oxfam, Stats Canada and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) – report a growing number of people living below the poverty line actually have jobs. Recent studies show there’s still a significant wage gap between the annual earnings of Canadian men and women. Stats Canada revealed that women working full-time in 2015 were paid as little as 74 cents for every dollar a man earned. That amount varied depending on education level. And despite women – in many fields – having higher education than their male peers, the annual gender wage gap in many occupations has barely shifted in 20 years. In 2015, women with a Master’s degree, or higher, still only made about 90 per cent of men’s earnings. Interestingly, when comparing hourly wages, the gap is narrower with women making about 87 cents per dollar. Economists attribute that factor to men traditionally working more paid hours than women. Researchers cite several reasons for the lack of income parity: women generally work in low-waged jobs; many work casual or part-time; there are fewer leadership opportunities; the female workforce takes employment leave to raise young families; they often have child care and elder care responsibilities; and quite simply, discrimination plays an undeniable role in keeping women’s wages down. According to the CCPA, 59 per cent of minimum wage-earners are women, and 32 per cent of senior women live in poverty. The story is worse for visible minorities, single mothers, and women with disabilities. “Immigrant women’s employment lags seven per cent behind Canadian-born women and 14 per cent behind that of immigrant men,” reports the CCPA. “Aboriginal women’s employment rates are five per cent below those of Aboriginal
A DA AN
O L L A R
WAGES | B.C. is the second worst province in Canada for gender wage discrimination with women earning only 82.97 per cent of men’s hourly wages.
men and 11 per cent below those of non-Aboriginal women. These gaps persist in spite of the fact that immigrant women have higher levels of education, as a group, than do non-immigrant women.”
Canada’s embarrassing pay equity status In 2014, Canada had the seventh highest gender wage gap of 35 countries ranked by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to a UN study. And Oxfam – citing Stats Canada research – reports Canadian women earn less than men performing the same job in all labour sectors. This trend is more disturbing when reviewing stats closer to home. B.C. is the second worst province in Canada for gender wage discrimination with women earning only 82.97 per cent of men’s hourly wages. Prince Edward Island has the best – women earn 97.17 cents per dollar. Nationwide, health care has the best record – paying women nearly 95 per cent of what their male colleagues earn. The studies did not reference unionized workers, where many contracts have equal pay for work of equal value
provisions, such as the HEU facilities collective agreement language on pay equity. It’s been well-documented that women in low-income nations work in precarious jobs such as the garment and agricultural industries, where they earn poverty-level wages in unsafe working conditions. And unfortunately, it’s not until tragedy strikes – like the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 where more than 1,100 Bangladeshi textile workers were killed – that the world sits up and takes notice. “The pay equity narrative is far worse for racialized workers, who earn inferior wages,” says HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside. “Our contracted support service workers are predominantly women of colour, and they face frequent job insecurity with contracting out, contract-flipping and wage-slashing. “Here in B.C., we know the appalling working conditions for migrant workers – especially in agriculture. That’s why we have a responsibility as members of the labour movement to be vigilant in advocating for workers’ safety and equal pay for work of equal value so that all workers are treated with dignity and respect.” BRENDA WHITEHALL
NEWSBITES as chairman. Anbang was approved by federal innovation minister Navdeep Singh Bains to take over majority control of B.C.’s Retirement Concepts earlier this year. The sale was also approved by licensing authorities in B.C. More than 1,800 HEU members work in a dozen of the company’s 22 locations in B.C. Retirement Concepts is by far the largest player in the sector with more than 10 per cent of health authority-contracted residential care beds. Anbang has been aggressively 12 GUARDIAN | Summer 2017
purchasing a number of global assets including hotel properties, office buildings, insurance companies, and other properties. The detention of Wu follows a clampdown by Chinese regulators on insurance industry practices, and on the flow of capital out of China. Market-watchers have also speculated that China’s financial sector is over-leveraged and under-regulated. Anbang has agreed to maintain Retirement Concepts’ operations for three years as a condition of the sale. But neither the provincial Health Minister Terry Lake,
nor Retirement Concepts, would release further details. HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside says the union would continue to monitor the situation facing Anbang, and enforce collective agreement rights and protections held by union members employed by Retirement Concepts.
Basic income project tested in Ontario Can a basic income be a more efficient and less stigmatizing way to deal with poverty?
With the support of policy-makers, Ontario politicians are piloting a basic income supplement in three urban areas – Thunder Bay, Hamilton and Lindsay. The three-year project will evaluate whether or not topping up a participant’s income to reach their region’s low-income threshold will reduce poverty and inequality; and at the same time, save government money. It’s estimated that poverty costs the Canadian economy hundreds of billions of dollars a year, in addition to $7.6 billion for health care costs. Having less
Working as a Nursing Unit Assistant in a busy hospital ER means Cerys Teer is always prepared for the unexpected.
Dealing with fast-paced care
pe er ed
TO HO lP
WHEN CERYS TEER wanted a career change in 2008, a friend
Two years ago, the Kamloops-Thompson local launched a Local Building Project to strengthen its shop steward base. Prompted, in part, by their employer cancelling paid steward days, chief shop steward Holly Judd and local chair Talitha Dekker took action. “We needed shop stewards, boots on the ground, who needed orientation in order to appoint new stewards,” says Judd. “Fortunately, our table officers and senior stewards all got on board.” Newly trained stewards “job shadow” seasoned stewards to help build their confidence, enhance their skills in grievance handling, contract interpretation and conflict resolution, and increase their knowledge on workplace issues at other sites within their local, which represents about 1,000 HEU members at multiple facilities, including Royal Inland Hospital. The initiative (partly funded by HEU’s Local Building Fund Project) promotes grassroots mentorship, leadership and education – engaging new and young activists to get involved in their union. And ultimately, it ensures better union representation by creating a stronger shop steward team. While this project focuses on new steward orientation, it remains the employer’s responsibility to provide employer-paid time for grievance handling.
people in poverty will mean less stress on the health care system, social programs and public safety resources. Basic income is not social assistance like welfare or disability benefits. Instead, it captures anyone who meets the income eligibility conditions, including low-waged workers or those in precarious jobs. If the basic income pilot project succeeds, it will provide more opportunities for people living in poverty, and is expected to reduce health care costs.
ON THE JOB
BUILDING STEWARD POWER
encouraged her to train as a Nursing Unit Assistant (NUA) and put her organizing skills to work. A year later, after 10 months of training and a practicum, Cerys began working casual as a NUA at Nanaimo General Hospital, becoming full-time in 2012. “We NUAs are really the hub through which most questions in Emerg are routed,” says Cerys. “We make sure families and the nursing staff are informed about patients in a helpful and calming way. “You have to respond quickly in order to organize the flow of needs for patients in a trauma. And that really gets your adrenaline going. There are so many different issues – like trauma due to car accidents, overdoses, and hemorrhaging,” she says. That means everyone working in the ER must deal with fast-paced care. Cerys works 12-hour shifts and each one is unpredictable. There are days that are high intensity, and others that are high volume, or it could be a combination of both, requiring organization and calm to make the day flow smoothly. Dealing with extreme trauma is part of the job, she says, but support is there. “When there’s a major trauma or incident, we are debriefed soon after, and are also offered help from the Employee and Family Assistance There are days that are Program.” high intensity, and others Cerys says NUA jobs are evolving with the that are high volume, or health authority’s iHealth pilot project. It was designed to get rid of paper records it could be a combination and create a “one patient, one record” order- of both, requiring entry system at Nanaimo Regional General organization and calm Hospital, Dufferin Place and Oceanside Health to make the day flow Centre in Parksville. iHealth is an electronic health records sys- smoothly. tem which uses Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE) to order medications and tests. Physicians and nursing staff now enter all orders into the computer system, and NUAs no long process orders on paper. “NUAs are an important part of the team,” says Cerys. “As our role changes, with this new technology, we are seeking more responsibilities in other parts of our job and new responsibilities.”
The idea of a basic income is not new. In the 1970s, the town of Dauphin, Manitoba ran an experiment on what was then called a “minimum income” or “minicome.” The experiment’s results were not released at the time, but a researcher uncovered the data in recent years and found the program significantly reduced poverty.
HEU wins CALM awards In May, HEU took home three awards and an Honourable
Mention at this year’s Canadian Association of Labour Media (CALM) conference held in Toronto. The annual awards ceremony recognizes excellence in Canadian union communications and media among national, provincial and local unions. HEU won the much-coveted Best Use of Social Media by a Union award, Best Photo award for Caelie Frampton’s solidarity image, taken at a rally calling for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women
and girls, and Best Promotional Material award for the union’s Care Can’t Wait campaign. The Care Can’t Wait campaign also won an Honourable Mention for Best Campaign. In reference to the campaign, the judge noted: “This campaign is visually effective on its own… It calls for and demonstrates the often unspoken solidarity between health care workers and patients, both so often unnecessarily vulnerable.” All winning entries can be viewed at <www.calm.ca>.
Summer 2017 | GUARDIAN 13
Since 1971, Statistics Canada has tracked the country through numbers. Here are some of the most recent and interesting facts from their website. Test your knowledge and check out the answers below.
Canada’s total population in 2016 a) 17.9 million people b) 35.2 million people c) 52.8 million people The number of centenarians (a person who is 100 or more years old) living in Canada in 2016 a) 8,230 b) 4,667 c) 188 The number of people who reported Aboriginal identity in the 2011 Census a) 1.4 million b) 502,600 c) 954,700
The number of First Nations/Indian bands reported in 2011. For example, the Musqueam Indian Band in British Columbia. a) Over 1,000 b) Over 150 c) Over 600
The number of Aboriginal languages, grouped into 12 distinct language families, identified in the 2011 Census a) Over 5 b) Over 40 c) Over 60
The number of foreign-born people, who came through the immigration process, and were living in Canada in 2011 a) 1,999,800 b) 2,345,900 c) 6,775,800
Which of these locations is a fake place name? a) Beaver, Newfoundland b) Canoe, British Columbia c) Maple Leaf, Prince Edward Island d) Snowflake, Quebec
Answers: 1.b 2.a 3.a 4.c 5.c 6.c 7.d 14 GUARDIAN | Summer 2017
JOIN THE CONVERSATION | HEU members and their allies are actively using Facebook and other social media platforms to talk about the issues.
New B.C. government
Congrats BC NDP. I cannot wait to see you [take action] given your … commitment to work for families and communities that are struggling.
I am standing behind the staff in housekeeping. They deserve respect and better treatment.
Silvia Miurel Morales
Care Can’t Wait We need more residential care that promotes independence and activities of daily living that are truly focused on the well being of seniors. Nikki Barb
Hey, good on all of you to speak your minds and let the right people know this has to improve fast. Our health providers have been ignoring this way too long and now it is critical.
Evelyn Hazel Gauvin
CSSW presentation to Coastal Board I would love to have seen the surprised looks on their faces when they saw the fabulous group of HEU members make their presence known. Solidarity! Cheryl McEwan
Good for them! It’s about time the VCH Senior Executive Team placed more value on all frontline workers. Lynne Ryan
Laundry closures In Vernon, our last day was June 1st. By 2pm, the maintenance guys were tearing the place apart so that Ecotex could come and take most of our laundry machines down to their new plant.
B.C. wildfires I have my Ashcroft family with me in Kamloops and am thinking of our HEU members in Ashcroft, Cache Creek, 100 Mile etc. Talitha Dekker
The contract was awarded to [Ecotex] for 20yrs/$266 million … These hospital jobs earned $17.99 to $19.18. Ecotex pays $12-15 hr. Bottom line, the Liberals sold us out!
Get connected Stay connected
It makes me so thankful for our “in-house” laundry, housekeeping and dietary staff in Prince Rupert. We have clean linens, cared for by staff that knows all about infection control.
Caelie Frampton PHOTO
Canada by the numbers
HEU TRADES | Kerry Susheski is a plumber who works in maintenance at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster. He’s worked for the Fraser Health Authority for the past six years and is a former professional lacrosse player. His work is not always visible. But when there’s a clogged pipe, plumbing problems or a potential flood, his team eliminates the risk of injury to patients, staff and the public. “Our job is important because we’re the people who make sure nothing goes underwater.”
HEU PEOPLE RETIREMENTS Harold Burns (South OkanaganCounty Squire Villa) retired in June after working 13 years as a care aide, and five years as a rehab worker. A dedicated activist, he was a People with disAbilities Standing Committee member, and served on his local executive in many positions – chair, chief shop steward, site rep, and OH&S steward. Harold says he plans to work on getting healthy in his retirement. Long-time activist Joanne Foote (Fraser Crossing) retired in July after more than 30 years of service. An activity aide at Holyrood Manor, Joanne served many terms as local secretary. She’s been an advocate for Indigenous rights and a strong campaigner to end violence against women. Joanne served on the Provincial Executive (2001-2012), the Indigenous Peoples Standing Committee, and the women’s caucus. Joanne plans to continue her community service and enjoy vacationing. Brandi Gademans (Trail) retired in June after 24 years. Brandi worked as a care aide at Columbia View (1993-2007), then at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (2007-2012) as a lab assistant. For the past five years, she’s worked as a clerk-switchboard. She was chair of the People with disAbilities Standing Committee, and served as local chair, chief shop steward, treasurer, and OH&S steward. Brandi plans to travel with her husband and enjoy more time with their grandchildren. Three Nelson local members retire in September — cook Brenda Klock and laundry workers Sharon Negraeff and Wayne Negraeff. From 1979 to 2004, Brenda worked at Royal Brenda Columbian Hospital, and then at Kootenay Lake Hospital (20042017), where she also served as local site rep. Brenda looks forward to camping, travelling and spending more time with family. An HEU member for 35 years, Sharon Sharon was vice-chair and chief shop steward for 15 years, and OH&S steward for 10 years. She plans to rest and enjoy more time with grandchildren. A hard-working laundry worker for 16 years, Wayne looks forward to regaining better health and enjoying retirement. Rehab assistant Connie Larabee (Chilliwack) retired in July. She held many local executive positions, including chair, vice-chair and trustee. “It has been an honour and a privilege to have a career in health care and to have a voice within HEU,” says Connie. “It’s been a proud 30 years.
46,000 members in 276 locals
And I will continue to advocate for better health care and worker rights.” Connie plans to travel and spend more time with family. Sandra (Sandy) McFarlane (Shuswap) retired in April after 38 years as a support worker – 17 years as a CUPE member, followed by 21 years as an HEU member. Sandy was a support worker at South Okanagan local, and then became a care aide at Bastion Place. On her Shuswap local executive, she was secretary, vice-chair, senior trustee-elect, and shop steward. Sandy looks forward to more family time. Three HEU members, who had worked at Haro Park since 1980, recently retired. Care aide Jenny Schwartz and staffing clerk Darlene Pawar retired in January, and laundry worker Aires Jenny Andrade retired in April. Jenny plans to relax and spend time with family. Darlene was local secretary-treasurer, senior trustee elect, trustee, and a Women’s Standing Committee member. Aires was assistant secretary-treasurer and an OH&S steward. Randy Tully (Royal Jubilee) retired in May after 23 years as a power engineer. He was an active shop steward for many years. Well-liked by co-workers and his union sisters and brothers, Randy was a loyal participant at local meetings, where his input was greatly respected and appreciated. In retirement, Randy will continue to pursue his passion of sports fishing.
IN MEMORIAM Graham Martin (61) passed away suddenly on April 2. A porter at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre (Sodexo), Graham was also a dedicated activist. He served as local shop steward, conductor, and CSSW bargaining team rep. Graham is remembered as a considerate, kind man with a great sense of humour. He loved current events, politics, reading and gardening. Graham will be truly missed by his wife and family, his colleagues, and all who were touched by his care and concern. After a brief illness, Muriel Graham (88) passed away on June 5. She retired in July 1989 after 16 years as an HEU member. Muriel worked at Surrey Memorial Hospital on the tray line and then as a cook – in the era when all hospital food was made from scratch. She was an active union member, who continued to advocate for many union initiatives, including the successful negotiation of post-retirement benefits. Muriel’s loss is deeply felt by her colleagues, her husband of 63 years, and her many family members.
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 Officers Sharryn Modder and Jennifer Efting. Ethnic Diversity • Indigenous Peoples Pink Triangle • People with disAbilities • Women
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SUMMER 2017 • VOL. 35 • NO. 2
HEU support workers rally for a fair deal