These Filipina workers have a reason to smile today as news of an agreement that they will retain their jobs was announced. (Provided-HEU)

Coquitlam, B.C.

Agreement reached not to layoff workers, most of whom are Filipinos

By Ted Alcuitas

Workers at two Coquitlam nursing homes can breath a sigh of relief today as the union representing them announced an agreement has been reached to save their jobs.

The Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) has reached an agreement with the Fraser Health Authority and the owner of the Coquitlam-based Madison and Lakeshore care centres which will protect the jobs of staff and maintain continuity of care for residents.

“I am very happy for the help of the union, Fraser Health and the MLAs, ” says Arlene Tandas, a long-time care worker for Madison.

“Hindi po kami pinabayaan ng aming union at pini -push nilang ma retained kami,” she told philippinecanadiannews.com (PCN.com) in a telephone interview.

Tandas came to Canada in 2004 under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) and   studied as a health care worker when she got her open work permit.

She had worked for Madison for 10 years and “I thought we were fine, no problems,” she says.

“When I was called by a union organizer from HEU, I was just curious about the union as I have never joined one in the Philippines. We talked about it over coffee in the mall as we were not allowed to talk to them during work,” she recalls the organizing work done by HEU.

Asked if there were objections from co-workers about joining the union, she said  most of it was about the payment of dues but with the result of their fight, she is thankful that they formed one.

“Kung wala kaming unyon, di laid-off na po kami,” she added.

Layoff notices had been issued to 150 workers at the privately-owned, publicly-funded care homes – a move which would have left nearly 200 seniors without their familiar and trusted caregivers, states the press release.

 

Raw emotion, tears at rally to support workers

The planned layoffs were a result of a change in sub-contractors announced after workers joined the HEU in May.

“This agreement is due in part to the courageous workers who stood up for what is right and family members who voiced their concerns for their loved ones,”  HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside praised the workers.

“We want to thank the Fraser Health Authority and Health Minister Adrian Dix for their instrumental roles in resolving this crisis. Fraser Health promised that they would do everything in their power to bring stability to the situation, and they did just that.”

Fight not over

Whiteside says although this is a welcome resolution, contract-flipping and contracting out will continue to put continuity of care for seniors at risk across the province.

“We are encouraged by the BC NDP’s platform commitment to deal with the larger issues around contracting out and contract-flipping in the seniors’ care sector. They recognize the damaging impact these practices have on relationship-based care.”

“But goodwill and one-off fixes can only take us so far. As long as the current laws are in place, workers’ rights and resident care will be at risk,” says Whiteside.

Large-scale staff turnover due to contracting out and contract-flipping has been endemic in the long-term care sector. Legislation facilitating these practices was brought in by the former B.C. Liberal government more than 15 years ago, according to the union.

 

Breaking: HEU workers rally tomorrow to stop mass layoffs