British Columbia’s New Democrat government wants to roll back two laws that resulted in thousands of health-care workers losing their jobs under a former Liberal government.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said Thursday the government intends to work with employers, unions and health-facility operators to implement one law that improves job security and rights for health-sector workers.
“I think what we need is a new day in B.C. where we work together as a team,” he said. “We will not be bringing the legislation into force immediately. Those strategies are strategies of the past. We are going to work with the broad health care sector.”
A spokesman for the B.C. Care Providers Association, which represents operators of residential care, home care, assisted living and home support services, said worker shortages and aging staff are serious issues facing care providers across B.C.
“We support the intent of this legislation,” said spokesman Mike Klassen. “But we do believe there will be costs associated.”
Dix did not provide detailed cost estimates, but said B.C. is currently 900 care aides short of provincial staffing standards and a large majority of care workers are at least 55 years old and near retirement.
B.C. needs a new law that protects and attracts health workers to ensure consistent, quality care is available in a province with an aging population, he said.
“We need health-care workers, and sending the message that this work is precarious at this time, when we absolutely need to recruit a new generation of health-care workers is the wrong public policy for today,” Dix said.
He said the former Liberal government introduced two laws in 2002 and 2003 that led to the layoffs of more than 8,000 workers and allowed care-home operators to cut or avoid unionized labour costs.
The Hospital Employees’ Union said in a statement that repealing the laws is a huge move towards restoring justice and fairness for health-care workers and repairing the damage to health care delivery.
The union said the workers fired were mostly women and their jobs, which included hospital cleaning, food services, laundry and other support services, were contracted out.
“Fragmentation of health care delivery, the disruption of care relationships, and more precarious and lower paid work is the direct result of these mean-spirited laws,” HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside said.
Story by Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press