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B.C. care facilities rally outside in contract dispute

Staff at Good Samaritan Canada facilities in Vernon, Penticton, Salmon Arm and Coast seek support

Bonnie Raitt, singer, gives people something to talk about.

Bonnie Wraight, 18-month resident of Vernon care home Heron Grove, was helping staff give motorists something to honk about Wednesday, Sept. 27.

Heron Grove staff, about a dozen or so, most clad in pink shirts that read Respect The Work! Respect The Worker!, were joined by the likes of Wraight and other residents in a two-hour rally outside the facility, holding up signs asking motorists to honk for their support.

The staff, members of the Hospital Employees Union, are in a battle with the organization that runs Heron Grove and six other facilities in B.C., the Good Samaritan Canada, for a new collective bargaining agreement.

“I like it here. It sure beats the hell out of the hospital,” said Wraight, sitting comfortably in her walker seat, holding a sign that asked motorists to ‘Make Some Noise’ as a show of support.

“These girls need a general strike. They’ve gotten 16 cents (raise) over the past three years. That’s B-S. They work hard. They earn their money.”

Workers at the seven long-term care homes in B.C. operated by Good Samaritan Canda – including four in the Okanagan-Shuswap – sent a strong strike mandate to their employer in July, when 98 per cent voted in favour of strike action to back their bargaining demands.

The HEU members have been without an agreement for more than three years.

The seven Good Samaritan Canada sites include Heron Grove in Vernon, Pioneer Village and Hillside Lodge in Salmon Arm and Village By The Station in Penticton.

The other three sites are Victoria Heights in New Westminster, Delta View in Delta and Christenson Village in Gibsons. Rallies were held Wednesday at all seven locations.

“The rally in Vernon demonstrates HEU members are ready to fight for better working and caring conditions, for themselves and the elders they care for,” said Meena Brisard, HEU secretary-business manager. “Other rallies like the event in front of Heron Grove took place across B.C. on Wednesday involving hundreds of Good Samaritan workers – and the employer needs to listen to their voices.”

Good Samaritan said in July, in an email to Black Press, it is committed to maintaining a good relations with its unions, and to continue negotiating in good faith.

“We remain optimistic that negotiations will result in an agreement,” said the society. “Resident care remains our number one priority and we will do our utmost to ensure that is maintained. We cannot comment on specifics of the collective bargaining process.”

The HEU is B.C.’s largest health care union with more than 60,000 members across the province.

READ MORE: HEU members at 4 Okanagan-Shuswap care facilities vote yes to strike vote

READ MORE: Vernon sports fields closed due to conditions

Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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