Unionized workers at New Horizons senior care facility in Campbell River have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, but the employer has forestalled any job action by promptly applying for mediation.
Members of the Hospital Employees Union (HEU) voted May 26 to approve the job action against CareCorp, the contractor that manages the complex care home.
The employees are seeking higher pay and say they are paid less than workers at comparable care homes in the province.
“The next day, CareCorp applied for Section 55 mediation process,” said Neil Monckton, HEU spokesman.
The union is unable to take strike action while under the Section 55 process, which applies to employers and unions establishing a first contract. The employees joined the union in November and have been working without a contract since.
The union’s bargaining unit, CareCorp officials and the Labour Relations Board met June 2 with mediator Christina Bains, and additional meetings were scheduled for this week.
“I’m not sure if those will go ahead because the two sides were still far apart on June 2,” said Monckton.
HEU employees at another CareCorp facility, Sunridge Place in Duncan, are also in strike position after voting 97 per cent in favour of authorizing a job action. The conflict is just the latest in an ongoing struggle between the employees and owners and contractors at New Horizons and other facilities operated by CareCorp.
In December of 2013, New Horizon’s unionized employees were given a 90-day layoff notice and informed by owner Park Place that it was going to contract out operations.
After CareCorp took over management in May 2014, it rehired many of the former employees in a non-union capacity — at a substantially reduced rate of compensation in pay and benefits.
At the time, HEU spokesman Mike Old said the employees could apply to rejoin the union — they did so in a November vote — but cautioned that companies had a history of “flipping” care providers.
That view seemed borne out last month when 230 employees at another CareCorp facility in West Vancouver were issued layoff notices effective May 31. The layoffs followed the announcement that CareCorp was terminating its agreement with the Inglewood Care Centre’s owner, Unicare.
The termination came during first contract negotiations between CareCorp and HEU, precisely where the New Horizons employees stand today.
“Many of these folks were hired back from the previous crew at lower wages, so compensation is the sticking point right now,” said Monckton. “But another impact of these kinds of contracts in private facilities is creating higher turnover that impacts the quality of care for these residents.
“If you’re not churning through employees, you’d get the care quality you’d expect from a long-term care facility.”