Contracting-out option still being weighed by new Sunridge owners

Artist Lewis Lavoie of Alberta works on a live painting before the residents of Sunridge Place. - Andrew Leong/file
Artist Lewis Lavoie of Alberta works on a live painting before the residents of Sunridge Place.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

The company set to take over ownership of Sunridge Place in Duncan June 2 is still weighing its options about how to proceed with the residential care facility's operation.

Park Place Seniors Living and members of the Hospital Employees' Union have met a couple of times since the sale by current owner Sunridge Place Ltd. Partnership and Bundock Management Ltd. was announced.

"The biggest thing is there's no real developments at all,'' said Margi Blamey, communications officer for the HEU/CUPE. "They didn't have any plans. At least if they do, they're not sharing them with us.''

The union is concerned the time frame is closing to within two months for some certainty to be brought into the situation for employees who received layoff notices.

"The staff's contract with HEU has expired,'' explained Ian West, Park Place's Senior Vice-president of operations, in an email to the News Leader Pictorial. "The B.C. Labour Code requires the current owner/employer to notify the staff/union that it will no longer be the owner and therefore the employer. As a consequence, staff have been given notice by the current owner/employer of its intention to sell and/or contract out the work.

"Park Place has the option to become the employer or to contract out. We have and will continue to have discussions with the staff's representatives, HEU, to explore the opportunities both options provide. Once this choice has been made, it will be communicated to the staff and union.''

"We expect to have a follow-up meeting with Park Place Seniors Living representatives in the next couple of weeks to discuss their plans,'' noted Blamey in an email to the News Leader Pictorial.

West stressed the sale is proceeding as expected and Park Place is still neither the owner nor employer at this point.

The inevitable questions about possible disruptions to patient care during the process and eventual deterioration of quality have arisen.

"Our members are concerned about protecting the continuity of care at Sunridge,'' Blamey indicated. "While we're hopeful we can find a way to retain current staff, Park Place's track record elsewhere indicates they they're more interested in owning facilities than directly providing care. In most of their B.C. operations, they've contracted out that work to a third-party provider.''

A Park Place takeover at the New Horizons Care Centre in Campbell River preceded by employee layoffs led to a community protest there.

"Through this process of exploration, Park Place is working closely with the union, management, the health authority, licensing and the families of residents,'' West pointed out. "I have met with the families to introduce Park Place and to provide them with reassurance that quality of care will be maintained through this uncertain period and will be maintained and improved after the sale.''

West indicated Park Place has no plans to change the type, level or quality of care residents currently enjoy. He added all Park Place care homes meet or exceed national standards set out by the non-profit Accreditation Canada agency and the current agreement with the Vancouver Island Health Authority will be maintained with no changes to costs or services for the residents and families.

"The process of the sale and the labour situation is governed by provincial legislation,'' West noted. "Both the current owner and the prospective owner are following the required steps. Vancouver Island Health Authority and licensing are involved and they are monitoring that residents are not impacted through the transition.''

The HEU is lobbying for change to the current system.

"Our members are also circulating a petition in the community calling on politicians to put an end to contracting-out and contract flipping in long-term care and also for the implementation of the B.C. Ombudsperson's recommendations concerning large scale staff replacements,'' Blamey explained.

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