Union wants VIHA to get involved in Sunridge layoffs

The Hospital Employees’ Union is calling for a meeting with Island Health about coming layoffs at Duncan’s Sunridge Place seniors facility.

Last month, 264 employees, all HEU members, were notified that the business was being sold and that they would all be out of a job by June 2. "We’re really alarmed that Island Health don’t seem to have their eyes and ears on this," said HEU communications officer Margi Blamey, adding that the union wants more from the health authority than "just a cursory glance in the direction of this facility."

Residents and staff are feeling the results of a one-two punch right now.

"Because we have two major, substantial changes going on here simultaneously: a sale in progress and a mass layoff of the workforce. That just sounds like a lot of chaos and disruption. And a lot of concern," she said.

Union representatives met March 11 with Park Place Seniors Living.

"There we found out that although we are only about 10 weeks away from our members’ last day of work at Sunridge Place, they are not disclosing any plans, if they have any, of what they are going to do about staff.

"That alarms us because 10 weeks isn’t a long time to get a contractor, hire staff and get them all oriented and in place to have the layoff take place on June 2," Blamey said.

The sale of Sunridge Place to Park Place Seniors Living is working towards a completion date in early June.

"We don’t know a date for that yet. But, they also told us that they also have no firm plans at this time. That’s what’s leading us to be so concerned about not only the continuity and quality of care for the people who live there but also just what’s happening with workers," she said.

"What they did say, which is significant is that, because they are the successor employer, meaning that the union continues as the union in that facility regardless of the operator changing, the notice given to our members by Sunridge stands for both Sunridge and for themselves.

"So since Sunridge has made it clear to our members that they’re laid off and they’ve told us, the union, that the reason for the layoffs

is contracting out it stands to reason to us that Park Place Seniors Living is going to contract out the work."

Which means that the stark layoffs are now only 10 weeks away with no apparent plans going forward, Blamey said.

"We have made it clear to Park Place Seniors Living that we are prepared to meet at any time. They say they really won’t have anything to tell us until the end of the month. That’s two weeks away, roughly but that means it’s two weeks less time for them to be doing anything in terms of what their plan is for replacement workers. We’re really concerned about that, and we think that should become a pretty big concern for Island Health."

After asking for a meeting with Island Health, HEU are just waiting for a response for a date.

Island Health communications officer Valerie Wilson said Thursday that the authority had not yet received the meeting request from HEU.

"Sunridge isn’t an Island Health facility and Sunridge is not violating the service agreement. It’s privately owned and operated. They’ve made us aware that they are selling the facility but we’re not involved in the day-to-day operation," Wilson said.

Sunridge’s employees have not decided yet what additional action they might take, Blamey said.

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