Union fears jobs could be contracted out at Malaspina Gardens

Union fears jobs could be contracted out at Malaspina Gardens.

More than 150 health-care workers at Nanaimo’s Malaspina Gardens face an uncertain future as they worry their jobs could be contracted out.

The Hospital Employees’ Union alleges Chartwell Seniors’ Housing REIT, which operates the facility, intends to contract out work, which will affect nurses, care aides, clerical workers, housekeepers and dietary workers.

“It’s really about privatization of the service,” said Bonnie Pearson, HEU secretary business manager.

She said it’s too early to speculate the outcome of the situation, but that the two parties are arranging meetings to discuss the issue.

Pearson said contracting out could impact patients, workers and the local economy through wage or job losses. It isn’t clear yet if all employees would be transferred to the new contract, but she said privatization means lower wages and benefits and less protection for workers.

Staff and patients also form strong bonds and changes aren’t good for the well-being of the residents, she added.

“It is destabilizing and upsetting for seniors when they see the continuous change of faces,” she said.

Chartwell says the building needs significant reinvestment to continue delivering care, services and programming for residents and it needs to operate in a more financially sustainable way.

The company, which purchased the 133-bed facility in 2005, is exploring a variety of sustainability measures.

“Our highest priority is to ensure we continue delivering the care, programming and services at Malaspina Gardens that Nanaimo seniors deserve,” said Donna Marasco, Chartwell’s acting chief operating officer, in a press release. “We look forward to input from our employees and their unions as to how we can best achieve that while helping to prepare for the future needs of the home.”

The company says it is attempting to engage in a “fair and respectful consultation process” with the union so all options can be explored.

More than 200 health care workers at Parksville’s Stanford Place, operated by the Ahmon Group, are also worrying about their jobs, after an arbitrator informed the HEU wage cuts and benefits cuts are in order for the facility to be financially viable. The union and company are arranging meetings to discuss that situation.