It is a time of transition for hospital laundry workers in the Interior.
The Hospital Employees Union says 17 jobs at Vernon Jubilee Hospital were contracted-out June 1, and seven of those workers were laid off, and don’t have other options.
“There are 17 decent, family-supporting jobs that no longer exist in Vernon, that have been contracted out, and the economic effects of that will be felt by the community,” says Jennifer Whiteside, the secretary-business manager for the HEU in an interview with Kiss FM.
Whiteside says the unionized jobs paid between 18 and 21 dollars an hour, while the new private firm in charge, Ecotex Linen Services, was advertising a starting wage of $11.50 an hour.
The union says about 100 jobs in the Interior could be contracted out over the coming weeks, including 29 in Kelowna, 13 in Penticton, 22 in Nelson, and 18 at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.
“We are seeing the mass firing of the majority of the laundry workers in the Interior Health Authority, and that will have an impact on local communities,” says Whiteside. “I don’t think the replacement of jobs centralized in Kelowna, jobs that will pay substantially less with very little in the way of security or benefits, that’s not a comparable situation for the communities.”
Ecotex signed a 20 year contract with the province to provide the service, worth an estimated $266 million, according to the union.
Ecotex will be operating out of a plant in north Kelowna near Lake Country.
Interior Health said the costs to upgrade and replace equipment over the next 10 to 25 years was the main reason for the privatization, first announced in 2015.
The HEU says laundry services six smaller communities like Golden, Ashcroft, Princeton, Lillooet, 100 Mile House and Williams Lake, will continue to be done in-house.