"The ink is barely dry on the new Master Agreement, and just this past week the government tables legislation that, buried amongst some assorted housekeeping amendments, gives them the ability to remove FPH from direct government," Darryl Walker,BCGEU President.
Vancouver (1 Mar. 2013) — The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) reacted angrily to a sudden move by the B.C. Liberal government to remove the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital (FPH) from the public service, calling it ill-conceived and short-sighted.
"We spent nearly a year at the bargaining table and not once did the government mention a word about transferring FPH out of the public service," said Darryl Walker, BCGEU President.
"The ink is barely dry on the new Master Agreement, and just this past week the government tables legislation that, buried amongst some assorted housekeeping amendments, gives them the ability to remove FPH from direct government," Walker said.
"We've been blindsided yet again. There was no prior warning. No consultation. No regard whatsoever for the women and men who work day in and day out at great risk to themselves in order to ensure our families and communities are safe from the likes of Allan Schoenborn, Clifford Olson and other criminally insane individuals who have been incarcerated at FPH."
Last week, the Liberals tabled Bill 8, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act. Part 6 amends the Forensic Psychiatry Act to effectively remove FPH from coverage under the Public Service Act and hand it over to a health authority covered by the Health Act.
Simply passing Part 6 of Bill 8 is only the first step. The legislation would still need an order-in-council to come into effect. In addition, the employer is required to provide the union with 60 days notice, during which time the union would negotiate terms of employment to ensure the best interests of our members.
The Master Bargaining Committee held an emergency conference call this week to determine its response and course of action. The BCGEU has since written letters to Premier Christy Clark and Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid, demanding Part 6 of Bill 8 be withdrawn, and intends to raise the issue at an upcoming meeting of the bargaining principals. The union has also briefed the Official Opposition, and urged them to oppose Part 6 of Bill 8 in the legislature.
FPH is a secure facility for the criminally insane, not a hospital, and assigning it to a health authority runs the risk of diminishing its important role in the province's justice system. Health authorities are focused on providing health care to British Columbians, and must deal with acute care shortages, surgical waiting lists, health care bottlenecks, budget shortfalls and an ageing population. They have neither the resources nor the capacity to take on the additional demands, security levels and risk that come with housing our society's most dangerous and violent offenders.
It is unclear whether Part 6 of Bill 8 will get passed. With the May 14 provincial election looming, speculation is the current legislative session will be short. The union will continue to provide updates as information becomes available.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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