In-house laundry services end at Kelowna General Hospital

It was the final shift today for 29 in-house laundry workers at Kelowna General Hospital. 

Interior Health has contracted out its laundry services, in five major centres across BC, to private corporation Ecotex Linen Services in a 20-year deal worth $266-million.

Health Employees Union spokesperon Jennifer Whiteside says six of the Kelowna workers have been permanently laid off, while those who've been retained by Ecotex will take a big pay cut.

"Those jobs are advertised at $11.50 an hour, so I don't know how many folks in Kelowna can really afford to live on $11.50 an hour, but I think that's an absolute travesty," she says. 

She says at the time of the layoffs workers had been making between $18.00 and $21.00 an hour.

Whiteside says in addition to Kelowna, laundry workers have been laid off in Vernon, Penticton, Kamloops, and Nelson - with support services in Trail and Cranbrook on the chopping block in the coming weeks.

"It's a real slap in the face to communities who are going to lose the economic benefits that come with those decent jobs that pay decent wages; provide a decent security; have decent benefits - the economic impact of that will be felt particularily in the smaller communities," she says. 

In March 2016, Interior Health cited the costs of upgrading or replacing equipment over the next 10 to 25 years as the reason for privatizing laundry services. 

Whiteside says Interior Health made the move despite a 13,000 name petition presented to the legislature, and a report by Simon Fraser University economist Marvin Shaffer that concluded Interior Health did not have a valid business case for privatizing.

"There was a very determined action on the part of the health authority, despite a lot of opposition from the community, despite a very poorly articulated business case. It's not clear to me how they're going to save a lot of money," she says.  

Laundry services in six smaller communities, Golden, Ashcroft, Princeton, 100 Mile House, Lillooet and Williams Lake, will remain in-house.