VICTORIA: A Writ of Summons has been served on the Hospital Employees Union (HEU), today, commencing a class action suit, supported by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF). The plaintiffs, patients who had their surgeries or procedures cancelled during the HEU?s illegal strike action last year, are suing for emotional, physical and economic damages caused by the delay in their treatment.
?During last year?s bitter labour dispute, the HEU defied a back to work order, stayed on the picket lines and shut down the province?s hospitals. During those four days, our back-logged health care system was forced to cancel 6,000 surgeries and 19,000 diagnostic procedures. Patients were denied treatment because of the HEU?s illegal actions but had no avenue to have their voices heard and to hold the HEU accountable for their heavy-handed and callous tactics,? said Sara MacIntyre, BC director for the CTF.
On April 25, 2004, the HEU went on strike, a few days later the government passed back to work legislation and the Labour Relations Board ordered the union back to work on April 30. The union?s executive ordered its members to remain on the picket lines until May 3, 2004. The illegal strike cost taxpayers over $6.4 million dollars in cancelled surgeries and procedures and caused incalculable damage to those impacted patients. The CTF publicly offered to help organize a class action suit against the HEU so impacted patients could the hold the union accountable for its actions.
?Following the strike, the CTF worked with patients and legal counsel to initiate the first step to a class action suit, a declaration by the Labour Relations Board (LRB) that the HEU?s strike was indeed illegal. It took the LRB almost a full year to make that declaration because the HEU used every avenue available to them, including requiring the victims to disclose all the particulars of their injuries,? noted MacIntyre.
Following the LRB declaration, the plaintiffs filed a Writ of Summons under The Class Proceedings Act with the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The case will now proceed to a certification hearing where the Court will be asked to certify the claim as a class action. Between now and then, the CTF is inviting other British Columbians who suffered from a cancelled procedure or surgery during the time of the HEU?s illegal strike (April 30-May 3 2004) to come forward and apply to join this class action.
?This case presents a real opportunity for the public, patients and taxpayers, to hold the HEU responsible for their actions. It should send a clear message to all public sector unions: taxpayers are no longer pawns to be used to settle contract disputes. It?s time public sector unions learn they work for taxpayers,? concluded MacIntyre.
Labour Relations Board ruling: http://www.lrb.bc.ca/decisions/B046$2005.pdf