Sunridge Place’s staff may have been surprised and concerned by the 264 layoff notices handed out Monday but there’s no reason for panic yet, according to the lawyer for the present owner.
"Nobody’s been laid off yet," said Tim Charron, who represents Sunridge owner Norm Jones.
Charron confirmed that Jones will sell the seniors facility in June.
"As far as we’re all aware, the facility’s going to continue to operate and provide the same services to the same residents," he said. "The labour legislation, such as it is, requires that when there is going to be a change of ownership and you’re no longer going to be an employer, you have to provide lengthy notice."
The workers received layoff notices but Charron said it’s not hard to understand why.
"Well, if you read the employment standards legislation, if you’re no longer going to be the employer, you have to let the employees know that and you have to give them the notice required in the legislation. That’s what been done."
The union met with the new and old owners Wednesday and the new owners were to meet with the employees later in the week.
According to Margi Blamey, HEU communications officer, the new ownership group is Park Place Seniors Living, which also owns Cerwydden Care Centre in Duncan and New Horizons in Campbell River. Last December, Park Place issued layoff notices to all New Horizons employees.
"Their intention there was to contract out those jobs," Blamey said. "We’re not sure exactly where this sale is at but Sunridge Place did bring us in to meet the prospective new owners. We don’t know that there is any connection between what they are doing at New Horizons."
Monday’s notices say that Sunridge workers’ last day will be June 2. According to HEU secretarybusiness manager Bonnie Pearson, the layoffs were completely unexpected and will create "devastating" disruptions to the seniors who live there.
"The residents and their families trust and depend on the staff at Sunridge to provide assistance with virtually every aspect of daily living. Laying off workers at the same time as the facility’s ownership will be changing hands doubles the upheaval and chaos and is certainly not in the best interest of the residents," Pearson said.
The facility opened in 2008 not long after the bitterly fought closure of Cowichan Lodge.
"At the time, Duncan citizens, seniors’ groups and HEU told Island Health that closing the community’s cherished public facility was a mistake," Pearson said, adding "Now, with the sale of Sunridge Place and subsequent mass staff layoffs, it’s time for Island Health to re-evaluate its privatization of seniors’ care."