Laundry workers laid off

Laundry workers will be laid off after Interior Health’s decision to contract services

Hospital laundry workers and supporters gathered in front of city hall “to say we are still fighting for our jobs” at Kooteney Lake Hospital - Credit: File Photo

Today, 29 Kelowna General Hospital laundry workers will work their final shift, according to the Interior Heath union.

The Interior Health Authority contracted jobs to Ecotex Linen Services Inc., a decision to privatize laundry services.

IHA’s March 2016 decision to follow through with its plan to privatize hospital laundry services in five major regions – and lay off more than 100 workers – came after a union-led fightback campaign.

The union wanted IH to invest $10 million over the next decade to update its laundry facilities across the health authority region, a move IH resisted. The union considered the investment modest when compared to the overall $17 billion spent on health care across B.C.

The existing laundry service does laundry for not only KGH, but also eight other care facilities in the area.

On an average day, more than 17,000 pounds of laundry is washed at KGH.

Nearly 13,000 British Columbians signed a petition – tabled in the legislature – and several city and district councils passed motions to protect jobs and services in their communities.

Although hospital laundry services in the principle sites – Kelowna, Kamloops, Nelson, Penticton and Vernon – are being privatized along with supporting jobs in Cranbrook and Trail, the services in six smaller communities will remain in-house. They are Golden, Ashcroft, Princeton, 100 Mile House, Lillooet and Williams Lake.

At the time of their layoffs, most HEU laundry workers were earning an hourly wage between $18.68 and $21.26. Ecotex is advertising a starting wage of $11.50 an hour for hospital laundry jobs.

“The privatization policies of the BC Liberals continue to wreak havoc on families, communities and public services,” said HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside. “And the sooner we can turn the page on these failed policies, the better.”

In addition to the Kelowna layoffs, 17 laundry workers in Vernon were laid off June 1. Another 13 positions at Penticton Regional Hospital, 18 at Royal Inland in Kamloops, and 22 in Nelson, Trail and Cranbrook are being laid off in the coming weeks.