WINDSOR – The government should not be cutting public sector jobs in economically hard-hit Windsor, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
The Ontario Agency for Health Promotion and Protection (OAHPP) has announced it will close the Windsor Public Health Laboratory by the end of the year, sending the lab services and 21 decent-paying jobs to London, Hamilton and Toronto.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has written to Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, asking the lab’s closure be put on hold until all evidence about its impact can be evaluated.
Thomas was among Ontario’s labour leaders who met with Duncan on January 21 for a pre-budget consultation.
“You agreed that cutting public sector services and jobs while the province is taking measures to stimulate the economy is counter-productive,” Thomas wrote in his January 25 letter to Duncan, MPP for Windsor-Tecumseh.
Thomas noted the local prospects for medical lab technologists are limited given Windsor hospitals are planning their own layoffs in response to an impending funding freeze.
Windsor lab employees are in shock from the announcement. Staff had been told as recently as Christmas that the facility would be relocated because of the expansion of Huron Church Road, not closed altogether. The age and seniority of employees range from recent university graduates to employees with 25 to 30 years of service. At least two employees are within six months to two years of retirement.
Thomas noted in his letter to Duncan that the Medical Officer of Health Dr Allen Heimann has said he’s concerned about the impact the closure will have on the turnover of lab tests for illnesses such as tuberculosis and influenza, as well as bacteria and viruses responsible for other respiratory and gastrointestinal outbreaks.
The province’s 12 public health labs perform about 4 million tests annually. The closure of the Windsor lab will have an impact on the province system-wide. About 20 per cent of the specimens tested by the Windsor facility come from elsewhere in the province.
Thomas closed his letter to Duncan with a request that his government “place a moratorium on any public sector job cuts at this time, particularly in hard-hit communities like Windsor.”