Unions warn of mass exodus at Ste. Anne Veterans Hospital when Quebec takes over

WATCH ABOVE: On April 1, management of the Ste. Anne's Veterans Hospital in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue is being transferred from federal to provincial jurisdiction. As Global's Amanda Jelowicki reports, many employees are unhappy with their new work contracts and unions are anticipating many will quit, possibly affecting patient care.

SAINTE-ANNE-DE-BELLEVUE – Union representatives working at the Ste. Anne Veterans Hospital are warning of a mass exodus of employees when the province takes control of the institution on April 1.

The federal government and the province of Quebec first started talking about transferring jurisdiction of the hospital to Quebec in 2009.

They finally agreed on a date last year, but the process of preparing new contracts for employees who will be working for the province instead of the feds has been a difficult one, union representatives told Global News.

The president of the National Union of Veterans Employees said compensation packages offered by Quebec are 17 to 35 per cent less than under the federal government.

The new contracts were recently negotiated and about 40 per cent of employees rejected them, saying they will be leaving the hospital on March 31.

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Members of one of the four unions affiliated with the hospital worry patient care may be affected.

“Right now, no one is going to be there to help them,” said Carl Gannon, the National President of the Union of Veteran’s Employees.

“The level of care is going to plummet and that is going to put a lot of them at risk. That is just the reality of the situation.”

About 800 people currently work at the west island veteran’s hospital with 300 World War Two and Korean veterans occupying beds there.

Gannon complained the Quebec government has been difficult to negotiate with since the process started.

He said the province has not been transparent about how it’s going to replace the departing employees, or if all positions will be filled in time.

He added employees staying on worry if it means an increased work burden.

“We can’t even get any guarantee that the 40 per cent of people who have said they will leave are going to be replaced,” he said.

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“We don’t know what is going to happen on that side so it could be a dire situation.”

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Employees have also lobbied for the hospital to retain its bilingual status, but that still remains unknown.

Global News made repeated requests to speak with Veterans Affairs and the Quebec Health Department about the future of the hospital, but at press time, neither had responded.

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