Care workers won’t lose jobs, Island Health says

Association says 500 full-time positions would be lost in support-services takeover

Island Health told Beacon Community Services home-support employees on Friday that all of them can keep their jobs when the health authority takes over as their employer in November.

The health authority countered a Friday announcement by the B.C. Care Providers Association that warned 500 full-time jobs will be lost when health authorities in south Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver take over publicly funded, privately run home-support services on Nov. 1.

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On Vancouver Island, Island Health will take over home-support from non-profit Beacon Community Services.

“Island Health will be transitioning all Beacon home support workers, managers and other team members, both union and non-union, who support home support services to the Island Health team,” said Elin Bjarnason, vice-president, clinical service delivery. “There will be no job losses.”

Beacon home-support workers are already unionized and the health authority already delivers home support in the north Island.

Bob Boulter, CEO of Beacon Community Services, confirmed there will be no job losses.

“Our home-support workers and managers, as well as any other staff whose positions are affected by this change will transition to Island Health, regardless of whether they’re union or non-union employees,” Boulter said in a statement.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix weighed in calling the “overheated rhetoric” from the care association with regard to Beacon “unfortunate.”

Beacon’s contract to deliver home-support services expires in June. The non-profit and the health authority have discussed the possible transfer “for some time,” Dix said.

“They are working together on the transition to ensure there will be no job losses [and that] there will be continuity of service.”

Bringing home-support delivery under Island Health translates into better co-ordination of workers for clients, said Dix. Island Health already delivers 47 per cent of home support on Vancouver Island, he said.

“This is the right move for seniors,” Dix said.

“We are going to be working to address issues and improve services and integrate those services into health-care teams which is what people want.”

B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie said in her former role as head of Beacon Community Services there were no disruptions to employees or clients during the last three transitions of home-support organizations that came under Beacon’s roof.

Home-support workers, supervisors and schedulers are all unionized under the same collective agreement with few non-union staff, she said.

Later Friday, Daniel Fontaine, president of the B.C. Care Providers Association, said there was a miscommunication regarding job losses. He said Boulter was part of a conference call among B.C.’s six largest publicly funded home-care providers on Thursday but never spoke up to say Island Health had committed to keeping all Beacon workers. “The assumption was the job losses included Beacon — but apparently it does not,” Fontaine said.

He said not all Beacon employees will want to transfer to Island Health, which could cause disruption for clients.

“Not a single senior has said moving jobs out of Beacon to government is what they want,” Fontaine said. “They have said they want someone to help them with laundry or to spend another 15 minutes at their house.”

In its expanded role Island Health will co-ordinate about 10,000 home-support clients throughout Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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