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Earth Walker
October 12th, 2001, 11:43 AM
B.C. government wants to "smooth" way to privatizing services.

The provincial government is looking into changing B.C.'s labour
laws in order to make it easier to privatize and contract out
services now run by government.
If the government's ongoing core review concludes that some
services should be turned over to the private sector, the question
of how to deal with the union contracts involved will be on the table, Labour Minister Graham Bruce said.
Under current legislation, anyone who takes over a business
inherits any trade union and collective agreements already in
place. "Going down that road, that [union successor rights] would
be something that would have to be addressed," Bruce said.
The guidelines developed by Premier Gordon Campbell's office
for the core review specifically state that one question to be
asked for each program is whether it could be transferred to the
private or to the voluntary sector.
Programs and agencies that have been mentioned as candidates
for privatization or contracting out range from B.C. Rail operations
to food services and janitorial work in hospitals.
Sources in government say that, for privatization or contracting
out to accomplish the financial "savings" by government, the
union contracts would have to be abandoned, allowing the new
program operators to reduce the costs of wages and benefits.
However, the head of the B.C. Federation of Labour says such a
move would be "a recipe for confrontation."
"There's no evidence to show that this is anything but an
ideological agenda," said Jim Sinclair.
It would hurt not only workers and their families but also
communities, which would see the disposable income of many
working families severely reduced, he said.
"it's an assault on worker's rights...another step in swinging the pendulum to the far, far right."
But the idea of privatization was welcomed by Philip Hochstein of
the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C.
"We understand there is less public money around," he said.
"And there are issues that have to be addressed in a public-private operation. For example, a private-sector operator could
build two gyms in a school and rent one out as a way of generating revenue. It's the way of the future. We are behind
public-private partnerships."
In Ontario, the Mike Harris government changed its labour code in 1995 to remove union successor rights in cases where
government services were being bought or sold.
After a bitter strike the next spring, a compromise was reached
under which the government agreed to make "reasonable efforts"
to provide jobs for those laid off through privatization or
contracting out.