EDITORIAL: Protest falls on deaf ears

Interior Health Authority decided Tuesday to contract out laundry services at five facilities, including VJH

Members of the Hospital Employees Union gathered in front of Vernon Jubilee Hospital early Monday morning to protest the possibility of privatization of laundry services, just more than 24 hours later they learned their action fell on deaf ears.

The Interior Health Authority decided Tuesday to contract out laundry services at five facilities, including VJH, impacting 93 full-time equivalent positions in the Interior, including 17 here in Vernon.

“A clear case exists to proceed with outsourcing laundry services at our major facilities,” said Erwin Malzer, board chairperson, of Kelowna, Kamloops, Nelson, Penticton and Vernon. The six smaller communities of Golden, Ashcroft, Princeton, 100 Mile House, Lillooet and Williams Lake will retain in-house laundry services.

Malzer claims a savings of $35 million over the 20-year life of the contract, enabling IH to increase investment in facilities and equipment for patient care.

However, a recent study by a university economist didn’t find a valid business case for contracting out and nearly 13,000 residents signed a petition opposing the loss of good-paying jobs that helped support local economies. The debate will likely continue, with good reason, and we certainly understand the frustration and loss felt by union members and their families. A case can certainly be made that management wasn’t listening to their concerns.

Now that the decision has been made we hope that IH fulfills their pledge to help the HEU to “support laundry employees as they consider options for the future, whether that is through accessing vacancies or retraining.”