On the Picket Line

British Columbia hospital union wins end to contracting out

September 20, 2021

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — “We never gave up hope,” said Ratna Tithh, a dietary aide at St. Paul’s Hospital here. Her union, the Hospital Employees’ Union, had just succeeded in reversing the bosses’ contracting out of food provision and cleaning jobs at British Columbia’s public hospitals. On Aug. 30 the provincial government announced that by March the 4,000 workers doing these jobs will all have been hired directly by public hospitals, with raises over CA$3 and improved benefits.

The union had carried out a series of roadside demonstrations at five major hospitals in this city’s region and on Vancouver Island July 20, following earlier protests at offices of elected officials.

Some 8,000 hospital cleaners, kitchen, laundry and other workers were fired in 2004 by the provincial government, which replaced or rehired them as contract workers. “I went from earning $18.10 an hour with benefits and pension to $10.15 an hour. I lost all my benefits,” said Catalina Samson, a dietary aide at Vancouver General Hospital.

Melanie Allen, a member of the  Hospital Employees’ Union local at Vancouver General, told the Militant, “Organizing a fight was a huge factor” in winning this victory. She said she looked forward to the return of cleaners and dietary workers to her local.

Michael Barker, Hospital Employees’ Union member