Laundry workers bring anti-privatization message to Interior Health | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Laundry workers bring anti-privatization message to Interior Health

Jennifer Whiteside, secretary-business manager for the Hospital Employees' Union, speaks to media at a protest rally held outside Kelowna General Hospital.

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - Hospital Employees' Union reps will get their first chance to argue their case against privatizing laundry services in front of the Interior Health Authority board next week.

“We hope after our presentation that they will conclude this is a necessary service,” union representative Mike Old says, noting he is well aware board members are all government appointees. “That’s true but the board is charged with the responsibility of governing the IHA on behalf of the citizens and we would hope their views could have some influence on the outcome of this whole process.”

At stake are 168 full- and part-time union laundry jobs which pay from $18 to $19.75 per hour, Old says, with 28 jobs at Kelowna General Hospital, 19 at Royal Inland Hospital, 17 at Vernon Jubilee Hospital and 15 at Penticton Regional Hospital.

The health authority has already issued a request for proposals from private commercial laundry services, a move Old says undermines the health authority’s duty to consult, which is outined in the collective agreement.

Old says laundry services are split between the Lower Mainland where the Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and the Provincial Health authorities use private sector services and the rest of the province, which is still done mainly in-house.

Old says the health authority submitted its proposal request along with the Lower Mainland health authorities, which he says means 'good familly-supporting' jobs in the Interior could disappear completely, moving instead to the Lower Mainland or Alberta.

According to the union, the Lower Mainland health authorities use K-Bro Linen Systems and EcoTex Healthcare Laundry Services, both of which have laundry plants in the area.

Old points to an agreement ten years ago within the Interior Health Authority where laundry services were kept in-house in exchange for concessions on wages and shifts.

“At the end of that process we delivered them a very efficient laundry service. They have said this is not about our efficiency but about the cost of replacement machinery, which is about $10 million over ten years,” Old says.

The presentation to the board is the latest in a series of protests the union has staged in the last few months. Old says the board will also receive letters of support from various city councils within the health authority's region and a petition claiming over 12,000 signatures of residents opposed to the move.

The Interior Health board of directors will receive the presentation at its public board meeting on Tuesday, May 26.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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