Upwards of 175 workers could be left jobless if Interior Health outsources in-house laundry services in Penticton and 10 other communities, their union has warned.
“Clearly we believe IH is under pressure from Victoria to fall in line and follow with the privatization of public services,” said Bonnie Pearson, secretary-business manager for the Hospital Employees’ Union.
“We’re looking at probably a provincial service, which takes those family supporting jobs out of those communities.”
Pearson said members plan to launch a public campaign to convince Interior Health to keep laundry services in-house, since a private contractor would be “hard-pressed” to match the service and cost provided by in-house staff.
Members of the HEU provide laundry services at 11 sites throughout the region, including Penticton Regional Hospital, which has 18 full-time equivalents in that department who offer linen service to hospitals, health centres and residential care facilities that are owned and operated by Interior Health.
Interior Health said it is seeking proposals for private laundry services to spare it the cost of having to update its own equipment.
“We know this is difficult news for our employees who have worked hard to make our laundry plants efficient,” director for support services Alan Davies said in a press release Wednesday.
It’s not the first time outsourcing has been discussed, but previous discussions haven’t resulted in any changes. This time, however, IH said the existing equipment and infrastructure is reaching the end of its operational life.
“But as we’ve noted from the outset, the decision to explore alternatives isn’t about the efficiency of our operations. It’s about avoiding future significant spending to replace aging equipment, an investment we can’t make when considering other health-care medical equipment priorities.”
Davies said the decision to move forward with privatization was made after 90 days’ consultation with the union to explore alternatives, and that changes will not happen until spring 2016 at the earliest.
He also noted the impact on staff will not be known until Interior Health has evaluated any response to its request for solutions, which is being run in conjunction with health authorities in the Lower Mainland.
Other communities affected by the possible privatization of Interior Health laundry services include Kelowna, Nelson, Vernon, Kamloops, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Lillooet, Ashcroft, Golden and Princeton.