Hospital Employee Union (HEU) workers at six B.C. long-term facilities operated by the Good Samaritan Society of Canada have voted overwhelmingly in favour of job action.
HEU members voted 94 per cent in favour of strike action at facilities which include Vernon’s Heron Grove, Pioneer Lodge and Hillside Village in Salmon Arm and Village By The Station in Penticton, along with facilities in Gibsons and New Westminster.
There are 682 HEU members at the Good Samaritan facilities, including 133 at Heron Grove, 174 at Hillside Village, 17 at Pioneer Lodge and 156 at Village By The Station.
“We feel like we have a strong strike mandate,” said Patty Gibson, director of communications for the HEU. “It’s a serious message that we hope Good Samaritan will take seriously, and that they’ll come to the table, bring with them a respectful proposal that will help us negotiate a good deal for workers and for seniors.”
In March, the facilities each held one-hour sidewalk demonstrations outside their buildings to show the employer they were tired of training new employees only to see them walk out the door for better paying jobs elsewhere, and that they’re constantly working short-staffed.
“We want an assurance in our contract that the employer will not sub-contract care and support services,” said Gibson. “We want solutions that will ensure there will be enough staff on-site everyday to provide the quality of care residents need and deserve. That’s essential; to provide consistent, safe care for seniors. That’s so important to seniors. We need to have enough hands on-deck to be able to respond to residents’ needs in a safe, timely and comforting way.
“We want reasonable wage increases that will keep up with other facilities and will help resolve a very serious retention and recruitment problems which impact quality, stable care. Good Samaritan needs to be able to recruit new caregivers and retain long-term staff that they already have, the experienced staff.”
The society is hopeful of reaching a fair settlement with its workers.
“Our non-profit organization remains committed to working with HEU in good faith to reach a sustainable settlement that allows Good Samaritan Canada to continue providing safe, quality care and accommodations to residents at risk and in need throughout British Columbia,” said Jonathan Koehli, director of stakeholder relations for The Good Samaritan
The last contract expired March 31, 2018. Negotiations on a new deal began May 2, 2018. Two days of talks are slated next week, April 17 and 18.
It’s business as usual for the time being at the facilities as no strike date has been given.
“Job action can take a lot of different forms,” said Gibson. “The main thing is, our goal is to settle a fair contract that respects caregivers and improves care. We are very hopeful that the employer will come back to the table with proposals that will help us reach that goal.”