February 29, 2016 - 2:30 PM
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - Laundry workers throughout the Interior Health Authority took to the streets one more time today, hoping to influence a decision on whether to privatize laundry services.
The Interior Health Authority board meets tomorrow, March 1, and the Hospital Employees Union has said it expects a decision soon whether to farm out laundry services to private companies in Calgary or the Lower Mainland.
Laundry workers from Kelowa, Nelson, Kamloops, Penticton, Vernon and 100 Mile House held rallies in their communities today.
Ken Robinson, third vice president, says the union is hoping the hiring of Chris Mazurkewich as CEO of the health authority in the fall bodes well for them.
Mazurkewich was chief financial officer for the health authority 11 years ago when the decision was made to keep laundry services in-house rather than contract them out.
“Since he left and came back, laundry services has increased its output by 100 per cent. We do 20,000 lbs a day now," Robinson says. “This has never been about the service and the health authority has said that.”
Instead, the health authority says it wants to avoid spending $10.5 million to replace outdated and outmoded equipment.
Robinson wouldn’t comment on whether he thought an incident at Kelowna General Hospital last August where a laundry worker was pinned between machinery and suffered serious crush-type injuries would influence the decision.
WorkSafe B.C. is still investigating the incident and may require further safety enhancements from the health authority when it is complete.
Robinson said the delay in making a decision — it’s been 16 months — also bodes well.
“If it was such an advantage to privatize, they would have done it by now,” he adds.
Should the health authority proceed with privatization, it would affect about 178 workers, including 28 jobs at Kelowna General Hospital, 19 at Royal Inland Hospital, 17 at Vernon Jubilee Hospital and 15 at Penticton Regional Hospital.
Unionized laundry workers are currently paid betweeen $18 and $19.75 per hour.
For more IHA laundry privatization stories, click here.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016