A public outcry has followed a CTV News investigation that revealed the considerable markups private staffing agencies are charging the public health-care system for temporary workers, as health authorities and facilities push back.
Frontline workers, elected officials, and the general public have expressed shock and frustration at the business model and potential profits to be had: companies lure workers from full-time unionized workplaces with high hourly pay, meals and other expenses covered when working more than 50 kilometres from home, and flexible hours for positions ranging from nurses to care aides to technologists.
The contracts reveal the companies are charging health authorities nearly twice the workers’ unionized wages, representing a markup of 30 per cent or more.
“To see the actual numbers is quite distressing,” said BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau. “Public money, taxpayer money is going into the coffers of private corporations for them to provide the service the public system should be providing.”
BC United opposition health critic, Shirley Bond, suggested “there should be a review of what’s happening when it comes to use of public taxpayer dollars” and what it’s doing to workplace relations between staff paid wildly different rates for the same work.
EFFORTS TO CONTROL COSTS
The 16 contracts obtained after a seven-month freedom of information battle with the Provincial Health Services Authority provide clues to behind-the-scenes haggling to control and standardize the markups. Most of the agreements are nearly identical and all are the current deals in place with B.C.’s health authorities.
When their latest agreement was signed in the fall of 2021, Calian Ltd was only providing nurses to Interior Health and charging a whopping $115 an hour for those workers. An amendment to that contract signed in August 2022 brought that in line with the other agreements, to the $70 per