Credibility on Care-home Layoffs
can tell when the BC Liberals are in trouble when they try
to hide behind the NDP. Witness the 200 employees given pink
slips at three seniors care centres owned by Retirement Concepts.
In question period, Health Minister Kevin Falcon referred
to a 1999 Nanaimo News story which reported on the
NDP government entering into a public-private partnership
with Retirement Concepts to build 125 multi-level care beds
in Nanaimo. The problem for Falcon is that the chaos created
at the Retirement Concepts' facilities is not related to partnerships
or contracting out; the chaos is a direct result of changes
the Campbell Liberals made to labour law. That didn't stop
Falcon from going on to describe the default on wages by a
Retirement Concepts' contractor as a "labour dispute".
When did failing to pay wages become a labour dispute rather
than a violation of BC's laws?
Bill 29 (2002) and again with Bill 94 (2003), the Campbell
government introduced a definition of "employee"
that is different for health workers than it is for workers
in any other industry. In Bill 94 they declared:
labour relations board or an arbitrator appointed under
the Code or under a collective agreement must not declare
a person who
(a) is an employee of the designated private sector partner,
(b) provides non-clinical services under the agreement referred
to in section 2 (a)
to be an employee of a health sector partner unless the
health sector partner intended the employee to be fully
integrated with its operations and working under its direct
supervision and control.
94 (2003) Section 3
workers, except those in the health sector, have their status
as employees determined by the definition and jurisprudence
of the Labour Code. First with Bill
29 (2002) , and again with Bill
94 (2003), the Campbell government added an assurance
that dependent contractors wouldn't have their staff declared
employees of the company where they work. That is why care
facilities owned by Retirement Concepts are able to have caregivers
that are employees of contractors, who routinely go out of
business and are replaced, with the consequence that the caregivers
have their salaries and benefits reduced and they have to
start over again organizing and negotiating. Of course, that
environment encourages high turnover as workers look elsewhere
for job security and it reduces the quality of care as seniors
don't know who is looking after them from day-to-day.
Campbell government is facing major credibility issues. Many
British Columbians believe the government lied about the HST
during the course of the May election campaign. Many are angered
over the thousands of small but vital grants that have been
cut for the arts and for education, described as death-by-a-thousand
cuts when referencing the backlash the government is facing.
In that environment, it takes a lot of gall for Falcon to
describe the consequences of his government's legislation
in terms that are contrary to the facts.
Campbell government created a situation where companies that
provide care for seniors can routinely escape their obligations
to care givers by watching subcontractors to go under, making
collective agreements worthless and forcing staff to beg for
their jobs back at lower wages and fewer benefits. That is
not theoretical; it has happened repeatedly at facilities
owned by Retirement Concepts.
workers and their clients don't want special treatment. They
just want the same labour law that applies to grocery clerks,
mechanics and saw mill workers to apply to them. They don't
want one labour law for health care and a separate one for
everyone else. Contracting-out may be controversial, as is
public-private partnerships, but this is about the changes
the Campbell government imposed on the Labour Relations Board.
The Campbell government created special labour legislation
designed to break the Hospital Employees Union; it has resulted
in instability and a loss of continuity of care for seniors.