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British Columbia About 1,200 B.C. health-care workers to be laid off in coming months: union

The union representing health-care workers in British Columbia says hundreds of its members in the Vancouver area will be getting pink slips in the coming months.

The Health Employees' Union says the Ahmon Group has informed more than 240 care aides, nurses, cleaners and dietary workers that it will contract out services at a facility in Surrey, B.C., starting June 1.

The union also says a U.S.-company known as Aramark has lost its contract with Vancouver Coastal Health hospitals and extended care facilities and will lay off 935 staff between Aug. 9 and Sept. 22.

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But Vancouver Coastal Health spokesman Gavin Wilson says the health authority has signed a seven-year agreement for those services with another company, Compass Group Canada, which has committed to hiring back as many of the Aramark employees as possible.

Wilson says it's not clear precisely how many of those workers Compass will re-hire.

He said the workers who are re-hired at Compass will be represented by another union, the United Steelworkers, and they will receive wages and benefits comparable to other employers in the industry.

"Continuity is important to us," said Wilson. "We're talking about more than 900 employees, so we want to make sure that there is as seamless a transition as possible."

The Health Employees' Union says has negotiated three successive collective agreements with Aramark, one deal with the Ahmon Group, and doesn't know if the workers will be hired back by the new contractors.

Union leaders are blaming "contracting out," "contract flipping" and the sale of businesses for the layoffs, and they're calling for better protection of workers in the form of stronger successorship language.

They say the B.C. Liberals excluded public employers and publicly subsidized private employers from such language in 2002 and 2003.

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