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Union draws parallels between PA Health Centre and Owen Sound strikes

OPSEU calls on Ford government to take note of both disputes
Workers rally at the P.A. Health Centre on Monday, July 9 (

THUNDER BAY — The Ontario Public Service Employees Union is trying to bring the provincial government's attention to labour disputes at the Port Arthur Health Centre and a health care facility in Owen Sound.

OPSEU believes both disputes reflect poorly on doctors who are pursuing a fee increase from the province.

Sixty-five appointment secretaries, medical aides and medical records personnel at the Port Arthur Health Centre—members of Unifor—went on strike on April 9 in an effort to gain a wage increase and more stable working hours.

Unifor has said that employees with more than 30 years at the clinic still earn $14 an hour.

In Owen Sound, 30 nurses, clerical workers and custodial staff—represented by OPSEU—walked off the job on May 22 at the Owen Sound Family Health support their quest for better pay. 

OPSEU President Warren Thomas says the workers are asking to be treated the same as people doing similar work at other community health clinics.

Thomas calls the Owen Sound and Thunder Bay disputes similar.

"The Ontario government should take note of these two labour disputes as it negotiates with doctors, who are demanding a 15 per cent increase in their fees," he said.

It was reported in March that the Ontario Medical Association is seeking fee increases that would total almost 15 per cent to cover the period from 2017 to 2021.

"We have two groups of underpaid front-line and support workers who are asking for modest wage increases while the already highly paid doctors are demanding much more," Thomas added in a statement.

He said he hopes the Ford government reminds physicians that "the little guy" deserves to make a living, too.

OPSEU was represented at a rally at the Port Arthur Health Centre on Monday which was attended by national Unifor president Jerry Dias.

A union solidarity rally is scheduled for Wednesday in Owen Sound, where management of the Family Health Organization has reportedly threatened to pursue a court injunction to limit the actions of picketing staff members.