Malaspina Gardens cuts 180 jobs

Nearly 180 workers at Malaspina Gardens greeted the new year with layoff notices and the news their jobs will be contracted out.

“The timing is outrageous,” said Bonnie Pearson, Hospital Employees’ Union secretary-business manager, adding it’s troubling the union wasn’t consulted prior to the distribution of notices.

The union represents about 150 employees at the facility run by Mississauga-based Chartwell Seniors’ Housing REIT. In total, 177 jobs are affected, with employees given a six-month layoff notice.

Pearson said HEU wasn’t aware of the decision until employees were given notice Tuesday, adding the union had hoped to continue dialogue with Chartwell in the new year and discuss alternatives.

Sharon Henderson, a Chartwell spokeswoman, said the decision to lay off staff was difficult, but will ensure Malaspina Gardens is “a viable candidate for redevelopment in conjunction with the Vancouver Island Health Authority”.

Valerie Wilson, a VIHA spokeswoman, said Chartwell and the health authority haven’t discussed redevelopment, adding that the facility is privately owned and VIHA isn’t involved in its business decisions, nor does it provide direction in regard to staff management.

Chartwell says there will be no disruption to residents.

“We have every confidence that the notice period of six months for permanent employees will ensure a smooth transition period with minimal impact on our residents,” said Henderson.

Contracting out is disruptive and it often persists after new staff are hired because of higher turnover rates because of lower wages, said Pearson.

“Staff, family members and residents often times are quite close,” she said. “The change is disruptive and often lends itself to people not feeling as secure in their surroundings.”

Leonard Krog, Nanaimo NDP MLA, said vulnerable seniors are going to lose significant relationships they’ve developed with the people who care for them.

“Seniors and workers deserve better, plain and simple,” said Krog.

The loss of nearly 180 high-paying jobs is grim news for Nanaimo’s economy, because workers will have less money to spend in the community, said Krog.

“It’s a bad news story. It’s grim – it’s really grim,” said Krog. “It’s a tragedy on every level.”

One of the core problems stems from Bill 29, introduced in 2002, which allows care facilities to contract out care and support services to subcontractors to “suppress wage costs”, said Pearson.

Although the Supreme Court of Canada restored some protections in 2007, it didn’t re-establish contracting out protections to the health care collective agreements.

“It introduces a level of instability in the health-care system,” said Pearson.

VIHA expects Chartwell to continue providing care in accordance with the service agreements and during the transition, Wilson said. VIHA is increasing the frequency of site visits with unannounced drop-in inspections, but isn’t disclosing how often they will occur.

In addition to severance packages, Chartwell is offering support services to employees including resume writing and job seeking skills. HEU plans to help its members by offering opportunities to register for work at other public health sector facilities and retraining.

Source: Nanaimo Bulletin