Care facility staff handed wage rollback

Members of the Hospital Employees Union working at Standford Place seniors care facility in Parksville have been handed a wage rollback in order to help keep the facility operating.

Members of the Hospital Employees Union working at Standford Place seniors care facility in Parksville have been handed a wage rollback in an Oct. 7 arbitrator’s decision, which outlines the troubled state of business at the facility.

Arbitrator Vincent Ready stated in his decision that the financials of Standford Place were such that a collective agreement should not “place the survival of an employer’s business in jeopardy.”

His decision reports that Stanford Place is in financial peril — caused by an error in under-estimating the cost of wages and benefits in its original bid, the delay in funding from the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) for an additional 20 beds, and a lower demand for private beds.

According to the HEU, the rollbacks take more than $1.25 million out of wages and benefits of some 200 staff over the next two years — meaning some care workers at Standford Place face wage cuts as deep as $3 per hour.

This is on top of a five per cent wage reduction in Jan., 2010, as well as a 25 per cent reduction in vacation time accrual and 33 per cent reduction in sick leave, all from last year. In January of 2011, the employees gave the union a strike mandate, which led the company to seek arbitration through the Labour Relations Board.

“It seems incredible,” says Mike Old, HEU spokesperson, referring to the company’s position on wage and benefit cost estimates — as well as VIHA’s acceptance of that business plan back in 2006.

“The workers are being forced the bear the brunt of this,” Old said.

In his decision, Ready states the employer has been forthright in its financial information to all parties, leading to a stark consequence of either taking a wage reduction or losing jobs.

“In other words,” wrote Ready, “the importance of ensuring the survival of Stanford is common sense to every employee.”

In a media release Tuesday, the HEU states ling weekend announcements have hit more than 350 mid-Island health care workers — the Stanford Place arbiter’s award, and the word that Nanaimo’s Malaspina Gardens (owned by Chartwell Seniors Housing REIT) intends to contract out the work of 150 employees.

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