The Hospital Employees’ Union is cheering the B.C. government’s move to repeal legislation that took away union successor rights and allowed care home operators to get out of negotiated employment contracts.
Health Minister Adrian Dix introduced legislation Thursday that repeals legislation from 2002 and 2008 exempting care home employer and subcontractors under the B.C. Labour Relations Code, allowing them to avoid successor rights and common employer declarations when operation of a care home shifts from one contractor to another.
The legislation led to thousands of care home employees being laid off and then offered their jobs back with reduced wages and benefits, Dix said.
“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,” said Jennifer Whiteside, secretary-business manager of the HEU.
Dix said Thursday the new provisions will not be implemented immediately, to allow the operators to adjust. Stability is urgently needed to attract more care aides and bring facilities up to the province’s standard of more than three hours per day of personal care per patient, he said.
Care aides provide “the most important personal care in the life of a senior,” and there are 29,000 currently in government and contracted care facilities, Dix said. With a wave of retirements among workers and a rising tide of elderly baby boomers in B.C., a labour shortage is already being seen in community care, hospitals and seniors homes.
After completing a 2017 survey of care home residents and family members, B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie summed up the message for government regarding seniors who don’t get the provincial standard of care visits, and get only one bath a week: “more staff, more freedom and more conversation.”
In its submission to the B.C. legislature finance committee in October, the B.C. Care Providers Association called for an additional $130 million to be spent to improve care, including community care visits that allow seniors to stay in their homes.
Dix said additional money is going to care homes, with more directed at private care facilities that have used the contract flipping and have fallen farthest behind in meeting provincial standards.