More than 800 employees of Canadian Blood Services (CBS) in Ontario have set a Jan. 8, 2015 strike deadline and warn that concessions sought by management pose a serious risk to the future safety of the blood system.
“If we learned anything from the blood contamination tragedy of a quarter century ago it’s that the safety and security of the blood supply system must be bullet proof,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents the workers.
“Regrettably, the CBS has put demands on the table that, in our view, undermine that very safety. On behalf of all Canadians, it’s a risk we simply cannot accept nor should accept.”
OPSEU points to several concessions sought by CBS management that could harm the system. They include: layoffs of skilled health care professionals and their replacement with lower-cost casual, part-time employees. The union is also concerned with a changing workplace climate that demands faster processing of blood products and unreasonable production targets.
OPSEU has also expressed concern with the direction CBS is heading in respect to its business model. The not-for-profit agency, which is regulated by the federal government, appears intent on building on its assets without a parallel plan to improve services. Though it enjoys assets valued at more than $800 million, the agency has announced its intention to cut expenditures by $100 million.
More evidence rests with the fact that the CBS permanently closed its Thunder Bay clinic two years ago which resulted in a deliberate reduction of almost 10,000 units of blood that should have gone to the plasma collection program.
“Our fear is that the federal government under Stephen Harper is deliberately allowing the CBS to go down this austerity path in the name of building on its bottom line,” said Thomas. “That is simply a recipe for a potential repeat of the calamity of the 1980s. It’s reckless and it must be stopped.”
Contract talks between the union and the CBS are scheduled to resume Jan. 5.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU Campaigns Officer