BCGEU calls on government to guarantee protections for vulnerable seniors

The Chinese government recently announced that they are taking control of Anbang due to insolvency,  alleged corruption, and fraud. 

Vancouver (16 March 2018) — Over the last year the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) and other organizations have raised questions about the sale of B.C.-based Retirement Concepts to the international conglomerate Anbang Insurance Group Co., Ltd. — a China-based investor with expansive international holdings. 

Retirement Concepts currently operates 21 care homes in B.C., with over 2,500 workers, who are represented by either the Health Employees Union (HEU) or the BCGEU/NUPGE.

Chinese government bails out private company operating B.C. retirement homes; unions raise concerns about continuity of care

In its decision to allow the sale in late 2016, the federal Liberal government dismissed significant public concerns over regulation and accountability issues that would result from combining private delivery of health services with foreign ownership. 

The Chinese government recently announced that they are taking control of Anbang due to insolvency, alleged corruption, and fraud. This renews, and significantly heightens, the concern that sensitive assets like Retirement Concepts — including its residents and workers — could be exposed to cuts, operational restructuring, or even liquidation and sale to a third party.

"We strongly believe that patients and workers deserve stability in their homes and workplaces. The federal and provincial governments need to step in, so that Retirement Concepts, including its vulnerable residents and dedicated workers is not jeopardized," said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President.

Unions recommend strategies to ensure governments protect vulnerable seniors

The government must use its authority to protect the delivery of care across these publicly funded facilities. The BCGEU/NUPGE encourages Minister of Health Adrian Dix to act decisively to protect vulnerable seniors before they are adversely affected.

The HEU has recommended a 3-point plan to safeguard resident care at Retirement Concepts and ensure protections for workers:

1. Implement expanded staffing and financial audits at Retirement Concepts facilities.

As the Chinese government moves to rein in debt related to Anbang's global assets, it would be prudent to more closely monitor the impact on Retirement Concepts' operations in B.C., including on staffing, planned facilities maintenance and equipment replacement.

2. Implement a moratorium on contracting out in the broader residential care sector.

If Anbang seeks to dispose of its care home assets in B.C., the government must be prepared to act to protect continuity of care at Retirement Concepts sites. A moratorium on contracting out and contract flips would ensure that care relationships won't be disrupted by pre-sale layoffs of staff.

3. Investigate the business case for purchasing Anbang's assets.

Residents and health care workers needs assurances that care is a priority

Anbang's care home assets in B.C. represent a considerable investment in seniors' care by B.C. taxpayers. The government must consider all options for ensuring that stable, seamless care can continue to be provided at Retirement Concepts' sites, including the purchase and operations of these sites should they become available.[1]

"We need to be looking at the most effective tools for protecting health workers and the delivery of care. The HEU's recommendations are an excellent starting point for the government to consider. This would give needed assurance to families, patients, and care-home workers that they are being looked after," noted Smith.

The BCGEU/NUPGE represents more than 850 workers at 9 sites operated by Retirement Concepts throughout B.C. with worker classifications that include residential care aides, home support workers, recreational assistants and support services workers.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE