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Almost 200 food services workers return to Victoria hospitals as health authority staff

More contracted-out workers became Island Health employees this week as 170 food-services workers returned as in-house staff at Victoria’s two main hospitals — Royal Jubilee and Victoria General.
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Food-services workers at Royal Jubilee Hospital, above, and Victoria General are once more Island Health employees. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

More contracted-out workers became Island Health employees this week as 170 food-services workers returned as in-house staff at Victoria’s two main hospitals — Royal Jubilee and Victoria General.

After two decades of housekeeping and food services being contracted to private corporations, increasingly more workers are being brought “in house” since the legislation allowing contracting out was repealed in 2018.

Health authorities, starting with Island Health, will continue to repatriate workers under Bill 47 over the next two years, bringing an estimated 4,000 workers in the province back in hospitals and long-term care homes as health authority employees.

Bill 47 repealed two existing pieces of legislation — the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act (Bill 29) and the Health Sector Partnerships Agreement Act (Bill 94) — which, in the early 2000s, had facilitated contracting out in the health sector and had significant labour consequences.

Other health authorities repatriating food and housekeeping staff include Fraser Health, Providence Health Care, Provincial Health Services Authority and Vancouver Coastal Health, according to the Health Ministry.

In 2020, the repatriation process started with North Island Hospitals, which independent of Bill 47 brought 150 contracted-out workers in-house at North Island Campus Campbell River and District, and Comox Valley Hospital.

The Hospital Employees’ Union, representing more than 50,000 workers, applauded this week’s move. The union said it is the second group of workers in the capital region to be brought back into the public sector as health authority employees since the province announced last August it would end 21 commercial contracts across the province.

“For nearly two decades, these food-service workers have been pushed to the margins of the health-care workforce, with low wages and substandard benefits,” union secretary-business manager Meena Brisard said.

Brisard called it “long overdue justice for these workers.”

“The privatization policies of the previous government devastated the lives of thousands of workers in a sector that was overwhelmingly female and highly racialized,” she said.

The union maintains the privitization fragmented health-care delivery, and undermined wages and working conditions.

It has been helping to move 4,000 workers back under the direct employment by health authorities as commercial contracts with corporate contractors are terminated. These employees will now be covered by the province-wide facilities collective agreement.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com