Seniors’ home workers rallying over contracting out

NANAIMO – Malaspina Gardens employees are rallying Friday (Feb. 3) to raise awareness about contracting out at the senior’s facility.

Malaspina Gardens employees are rallying Friday (Feb. 3) to raise awareness about contracting out at the senior’s facility.

The rally starts at 11 a.m. in front of Malaspina Gardens, located at 388 Machleary St.

It marks one month since employees were given layoff notices by Chartwell Senior’s Housing REIT, which operates the long-term care facility. Chartwell announced in early January it was contracting out 177 jobs and gave existing employees a six-month layoff notice.

Kathleen Watson, a health care assistant, activity aid and chairwoman of the Hospital Employees’ Union Mid-Island local, said staff are uncertain about the future.

“It gets harder as the day goes on. You have to make life-altering decisions,” she said.

Employees want to raise awareness about the issue and how it affects senior’s care. Watson said the union plans on holding some kind of event on the third of each month until the contractor takes over or Chartwell changes its decision.

Margi Blamey, a spokeswoman for HEU, said the union is trying to convince Chartwell to reconsider contracting out.

During Friday’s rally, information will also be available on Bill 29, which allows companies to contract out. Watson said many people don’t understand the repercussions the legislation has for health care and other sectors in B.C.

“We as a community, as a province, have to take a stand against this because it’s not going to stop with us,” said Watson.

Blamey said contracting out impacts seniors care because there is a higher rate of turnover as people seek higher paying jobs and better working conditions. That disrupts the strong relationships between employees and residents, which helps create a better care environment.

“Familiarity takes a long time to build up and create trust. Our members are sensitive to this,” said Blamey. “Personal care is intimate care.”

Donna Marasco, senior vice-president of operations at Chartwell, said in an e-mail the company still plans to contract out the jobs and its goal is to provide a structure that is viable and benefits seniors over the long term.

“We recognize there isn’t a consensus on the approach we have taken and respect our employees’ rights to express their opinion,” said Marasco about the rally.

She added it’s too early to comment about how the staff and residents are transitioning to the change, because a contractor hasn’t been hired yet and the changeover won’t happen until July.

The company has sent out a request for proposals with a deadline to apply this Friday (Feb. 3).