Laundry workers push IH board not to privatize

KELOWNA – Interior Health Authority (IHA) laundry workers continued their campaign to save their jobs Tuesday. IHA is looking at contracting out laundry services. Today the laundry workers and their union took their case against that plan directly to IHA’s board of directors. The Hospital Employees Union (HEU) argues privatization puts 175 at risk.

Jessica Guthrie is one of the laundry employees that could be out of work. She presented to the board today and was hoping to show them the impact outsourcing could have on families and communities.

“For myself personally it could mean the difference between keeping my house and losing my house,” she said.

Read More: Potential Interior Health laundry privatization attracts criticism

IHA has yet to make a final decision on whether or not to contract out laundry services. The health authority is still collecting proposals from potential alternative laundry providers. The union says they would take the jobs out of the region.

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“The bidders are from the Lower Mainland or from Alberta, so it is not like these jobs are going to be replaced with private jobs. These jobs will be gone altogether,” said Donisa Bernardo, the HEU’s financial secretary.

The health authority won’t confirm whether bids are coming from outside the Okanagan, but says contracting out would save it millions of dollars on equipment.

“We’ve recognized that throughout the next 10 years we might have to spend as much as $10 million on capital equipment and we are already struggling to find dollars for medical equipment so we will have to look at doing thing differently,” said IHA’s Alan Davies in an interview in early May.

The union sees the capital costs differently arguing the $10 million over 10 years breaks down to just $1 million a year.

“That is a modest investment to keep public and efficient service in the communities,” says Bernardo.

Read More: Interior Health moving forward with laundry privatization proposal

IHA will finish collecting proposals from potential laundry providers this week. After the union and workers finished their presentation to the board, chair Erwin Malzer hinted that laundry workers might want to get involved in that process.

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“No decision will be taken until we have the results of the proposals including if you want to submit one,” said Malzer to the delegation supporting laundry workers. “What we really are doing is looking for creative solutions.”

The HEU says they believe they have already found efficiencies and will have to explore what the board chair meant by his comments about submitting a proposal.

IHA is expected to make a decision on the issue by the end of summer.

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