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HEU still fighting to save laundry service jobs

Union says Interior Health board could announce a decision on fate of local laundry service jobs at Tuesday board meeting.
Interior Health unionized laundry workers and their supporters staged a protest at the corner of Royal and Pandosy outside Kelowna General Hospital today.

Interior Health union laundry service workers took to the streets again this morning to encourage public pressure to save their jobs.

IH has been considering a proposal for many months now to privatize the service as an efficiency cost cutting measure. Trucking the laundry service to Alberta or the Lower Mainland raises the possibility of 175 workers in 11 communities across the Interior Health region losing their jobs.

The IH board is holding a regular meeting Tuesday in Kelowna, with the possibility the board may make a recommendation on how to proceed with the proposal.

The initial proposal was publicized last year, and the IH board pulled back on proceeding pending further review after the initial protest from the Hospital Employee Union members who faced losing their jobs.

Since then, the union has presented a petition to Premier Christy Clark signed by 12,000 people advocating for the local laundry services to not be privatized.

At the rally today, one of several the HEU has staged in recent months on this issue, a union official said for a modest equipment investment, the laundry service can be efficiently maintained and local well paying jobs saved.

The union wants IH to invest $10 million over the next decade to update its laundry facilities across the health authority region, a move IH has so far resisted. The union considered the investment modest when compared to the overall $17 billion spent on health care across B.C.

The existing laundry service does laundry for not only KGH, but also eight other care facilities in the area. And it is an integral part of the local health care system, as it provides clean linens, towns and gowns for a growing hospital, and is a service that helps stop the spread of infection.

On an average day, more than 17,000 pounds of laundry is washed at KGH.