THUNDER BAY, ON, Aug. 2, 2018 /CNW/ - The wealthy doctors who own the Port Arthur Health Centre have once again refused to return to the bargaining table while 65 workers are about to spend an 18th week on a picket line.
"We have repeatedly asked nicely to get these doctors back to the bargaining table and now we have no choice but to take a more aggressive approach," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "These members' demands for a living wage and secure jobs are reasonable yet the employer won't show them enough respect to at least return to negotiations."
Earlier this week, the employer sent written notice which "declines the Union's invitation to meet", stating that they are not obligated "to engage in any further bargaining with the Union." Despite unsubstantiated allegations of unlawful activity, the employer did not seek injunctions, suggesting that these complaints against workers' voicing their demands for decent employment may be indefensible.
Effectively shutting down communication with an employer that is already refusing to engage, this letter was received less than a day after union representatives spoke to the Centre's CEO, John Marrello. The letter now calls for all correspondence to be directed to the employer's legal team, in what appears to be an attempt to hinder dialogue to resolve the issue.
The members of Unifor Local 229 went on strike April 9, 2018. A resounding 94% of the workers then rejected a sub-standard final offer from the employer that included wages that are much lower than their counterparts in other clinics, and casual employment conditions that deny them health benefits or reliable scheduling of work hours.
Unifor has raised concerns that scabs with questionable qualifications are being used while experienced workers who take patient confidentiality seriously are on the street.
"These are workers who have been at the clinic for 15 years, earning wages as low as $14.75. You can't help but conclude that the doctors do not value the work these women do as appointment secretaries, medical aides and in medical records personnel," said Kari Jefford, Unifor Local 229 President.
Since April 9, Unifor has held several solidarity rallies, days of action and community events. The public response has been overwhelmingly positive, with more than 7000 people signing a petition or sending an email to the employer demanding a fair deal.
While the employer shows no interest in resolving this labour dispute and the doctors won't even meet with a senior mediator from the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the union will be stepping up efforts to raise awareness next week. Visit unifor.org/portarthurhealthstrike for updates.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.
For further information: please contact Unifor Communications Representative Asma Farooq at [email protected] or 647-327-9371 (cell).