Hospital union doing its homework in new campaign against laundry privatization

Megan Turcato / Global News

KELOWNA — There was another rally in Kelowna today against the privatization of laundry services in the Interior Health Authority (IHA). This latest crusade to keep 175 well paying Southern Interior jobs came with a new question — how much money will the government actually save contracting out the service?

This latest push for privatization (after a failed attempt back in 2002) came from the health authority in November of last year.

READ MORE: IHA contemplates cutting in-house laundry; 175 jobs on the line

Cutting cost was IHA’s primary reason for the move, saying in-house laundry bills tallied $10-million annually, with another $10.5-million needed for facility and machine upgrades in the next decade.

But according to the Hospital Employees Union, if the privatization model in the lower mainland is any indicator, cost savings may not be all that high.

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“Published financial statements show that payments for private laundry contracts made by Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health and Provincial Health Services authorities, as well as Providence Health Care (PHC), grew by $23-million, or 170 per cent, since 2007,” according to a HEU press release.

Interior Health says it’s not in a position to speak on the cost increases in the lower mainland and that it’s unaware of the specifics of the contract. IHA has not released how much it intends to spend on a private contract service.

In another show of solidarity against contracting the service out, dozens of employees and supporters rallied today, marching from Capri Mall to Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson’s office. A spokesperson for the MLA told Global News Thomson was not in.

There has been no shortage of backlash from the union and its employees since the privatization process began.

READ MORE: Potential Interior Health laundry privatization attracts criticism

As the deadline for the privatization decision looms, concern is growing from workers whose jobs are on the line, but also from citizens, weary about the level of care.

“I have very ill people in my family. I know that their needs would not be met by a specialized privatized laundry supplies that you would get,” says Jacquie Kremtcher, a former IHA laundry worker. “I have very great concerns as to what the quality would be and I know and fell comfortable with how our laundries perform.”

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Interior Health assures if contracted out, the level of laundry service will adhere to industry standards.

As for the privatization process itself, right now the health authority is evaluating the submissions it’s received for companies bidding for the potential contract. A decision is set to be made by September.

If IHA does move forward with privatization, the contract work isn’t scheduled to start until April of 2016.

(With files from Megan Turcato)

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