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Pickets possible at SGH

Unionized workers in the health sector served strike notice Thursday (April 22).

Unionized workers in the health sector served strike notice Thursday (April 22).

The more than 41,000 nursing assistants, food services workers, cooks, cleaners and laundry workers around the province issued aren't happy with the state of contract negotiations with the Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC). After essential service levels were set this week the workers served strike notice.

The collective agreement between the HEABC and the Hospital Employees' Union (HEU) expired March 31.

The unionized workers are concerned about contracting out and wages. The province is contract out food services, cleaning services and laundry to reduce health care costs.

According to the HEU web site, the workers can start taking job action mid-day Sunday (April 25). The union plans to begin with an overtime ban but could expand the job action to include picket lines and other unspecified actions.

"Public health care is on the line. So are decent family-supporting jobs in communities across B.C.," said HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.

"Facilities sub sector workers earn 20 to 40 per cent more than the average of their counterparts in other provinces," said Louise Simard, the president and CEO of HEABC. "We are very concerned that the unions have chosen to strike instead of working with us to negotiate an affordable collective agreement that will help to protect health care for British Columbians."

Simard said the workers want contracting out stopped and health sector cost cutting put on hold.

"Technicians and tradespeople, LPNs and medical records staff - everyone from the lab to the laundry and patient wards to the emergency room - are targeted for privatization," Allnut said.

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