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HEU stages rally in Nelson Monday ahead of IH laundry decision

HEU workers will be back in front of the courthouse in Nelson as part of the Leap for Local Laundry rally in support of stopping the privatization of laundry services. — The Nelson Daily file photo

Local Hospital Employees Union workers in Nelson are joining fellow members from other communities in the province as part of the Leap for Local Laundry rally Monday (February 29) in front of the courthouse on the corner of Vernon and Ward Streets.

The day of action happens in the BC Interior as the HEU brings attention to the Interior Health Authority (IHA) decision to possibly contract out in-house hospital laundry services.

After more than a year of delays, including an announcement in December by Chris Mazurkewich, President and CEO for Interior Health, the IHA is expected to announce its decision in the coming weeks.

The privatization of services would see the in-house laundry transferred to the Lower Mainland or Alberta, where contractors will assume the work. The HEU says 175 jobs will be lost in the communities as a result.

Since announcing in 2015 that it would seek bids from the private sector to take over all or part of its laundry operations at five major hospitals in Kelowna, Vernon, Kamloops, Penticton and Nelson, along with services in six smaller communities, IHA has delayed its decision several times.

In Nelson, Kootenay Lake Hospital laundry services, which staffs 17 full-time equivalent positions and, including casuals, 25 laundry workers, processes laundry for all West Kootenay hospitals, including facilities in Trail, Castlegar, Grand Forks, Kaslo, New Denver and Nakusp.

Local governments in Nelson, Kamloops, Vernon, Williams Lake, Summerland and 100 Mile House have raised concerns about privatizing their hospital laundry and the subsequent job losses in their communities.

Rallies are scheduled for several communities, including Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon, Nelson, and 100 Mile House.

Demonstrations will take place at the following times:

Nelson: 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. (in front of the courthouse; Vernon and Ward streets)

Kamloops: 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Columbia St. in front of courthouse/Ponderosa Lodge)

Kelowna: 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (corner of Royal and Pandosy)

Penticton: 4:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. (green space between Penticton Library/High School)

Vernon: 7:00 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. (in front of Vernon Jubilee Hospital)

100 Mile House: 3:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. (corner of 1st Street and Highway 97)