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BCGEU calls on LRB to bring Retirement Concepts members under one bargaining unit to protect workers, seniors

The B.C. Government & Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) has filed a common employer application at the BC Labour Relations Board (LRB) seeking to consolidate all nine of the union's bargaining units with Well Being Services/Retirement Concepts (WBS/RC) into a single bargaining unit. The move to a single bargaining unit would position the union and its members to address many of the issues that have plagued the for-profit facilities operated by WBS/RC – four of which are now under health authority administration due to a failure to meet provincial care standards – including substandard care for seniors, chronic under-staffing, high rates of staff burnout and injury, and a crisis in recruitment and retention. 
"Going from nine bargaining units to one would be a great first step towards fixing the failures of the for-profit seniors care system, and holding the operators accountable for the dismal conditions they've created for their staff and their clients," says Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. "The bottom line for our union is that for-profit seniors' care should not exist-we believe all seniors' care should be publicly funded and publicly delivered. But as long as for-profit care does exist, our members and the seniors they care for deserve the confidence that there is some transparency and accountability built into the system."
The erosion of both working conditions and standards of care in for-profit seniors' care was set in motion in the early 2000s when the previous BC Liberal government passed laws allowing contract flipping in the sector. Those laws weakened workers' rights, created a race to the bottom for wages and working conditions, and allowed operators to maximize profit at the expense of people. With these laws now repealed by the BC NDP, unions are able to push for stronger bargaining rights without the threat of contract flipping and workers losing their jobs. 
"For years, contract-flipping was a knife at the throat of workers and the unions that represent them-operators could, and did, respond to pressure for improved working conditions by flipping contracts," said Smith. "Now that the knife has been removed, we are making up for lost time. A common employer designation would be a major step in the right direction. Our members, and seniors, deserve it." 
While consolidating bargaining units can bring greater stability to the for-profit side of B.C. seniors' care, as a long-term solution the BCGEU continues to call for the sector to be publicly funded and publicly delivered. 
8,000 BCGEU members are employed in seniors' care with 3,000 of those working in long-term care facilities. 
For more information contact: BCGEU Communications [email protected]