Cleaning, dietary workers coming back in-house at B.C. hospitals

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People in acute care facilities will have more consistent, safe and stable patient care, now that government is bringing thousands of support service workers and services that were previously contracted out back to work directly for health authorities, after almost 20 years of these services being contracted to private companies.

Beginning this fall, the Province will serve notice under the terms of 21 commercial service contracts and start a phased approach to repatriating housekeeping and food-service contracts. The move will improve wages, working conditions, job security and stability for approximately 4,000 workers who rely on their jobs, and the countless patients that they help each day. By promoting a stable and effective workforce, government will be better positioned to offer attractive jobs options to people interested in joining the workforce.

“Health-care workers rely on a committed and stable workforce to help them with their jobs, and this move also better protects support service workers in their positions,” said Premier John Horgan. “Previous government actions cut health-care wages, took away the jobs they relied on, and created a chain reaction of layoffs that saw women disproportionately affected – the largest such layoffs in Canada’s history. Nearly 20 years later, we are still living with the aftermath of those choices, with workers paid less to do the same work as their colleagues in the public system. It’s time to put a stop to it.”

This move started with Bill 47 (Health Sector Statutes Repeal Act), which was brought into force through regulation on July 1, 2019. Bill 47 repealed two existing pieces of legislation – the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act (Bill 29) and the Health Sector Partnerships Agreement Act (Bill 94), which facilitated contracting out in the health sector and caused significant labour impacts.

“Bill 47 was an important step in bringing basic fairness to public health care in our province,” said Adrian Dix, B.C.’s Minister of Health. “The repatriation of housekeeping and food services contracts is good for patients, for workers, for the health- care team and for recruiting future health-care workers. It treats those who do the essential and life-saving work of keeping our hospitals and facilities clean and ensuring the nutrition of our patients with fairness and dignity. There is always more to do, but I am very proud of these decisions and the value they place on public health care.”

To address inequality and enhance working conditions for employees in health-care facilities, government is ensuring that workers have the benefits, wages and working conditions that they deserve to be able to help patients. Evidence has shown that employees who feel secure and safe in their jobs provide higher-quality care for people, and in turn employers can attract and retain staff at a higher and more consistent level.

“Having fought for the rights of workers, I understand how devastating it can be when these entitlements are taken away,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour. “Restoring these rights for thousands of health-care workers in B.C. is a step towards better wages, job security, and improved working conditions.”

Government is currently working with the Hospital Employees’ Union, health authorities and contractors on a phased-in plan that allows employers to address this change in a way that strengthens and enhances the health system’s services.


Meena Brisard, secretary-business manager, Hospital Employees’ Union —

“During this pandemic, we’ve seen just how critical these workers are to protecting patients and the public, but we’ve also seen how privatization has marginalized these workers within health care where they often work in the lowest-paid positions and are among those most at risk of infection. Reuniting the health-care team is the right thing for workers and patients. It ends the economic discrimination experienced predominantly by women and racialized people working within our health-care system, and it ensures greater worker and patient safety while improving retention rates.”

Catalina Samson, dietary aide, Vancouver General Hospital —

“Our work is important. The hospital doesn’t run without us and patients can’t recover without nourishing food or a clean environment. We’re a vital part of the team, and today I feel like our work is being recognized for that. Reuniting us with the rest of the health-care team is a great act of solidarity.”