May 17, 2022

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The Canadian Union of Public Employees is “raising serious concerns” about North Bay Regional Health Centre’s “conflictual” and costly approach to staffing stability and labour relations.

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Michael Hurley, the president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, said so far in 2022, the health centre has cut four per cent of the 900-member CUPE 139 bargaining unit.

Brett Campbell, president CUPE 139, which represents more than 900 hospital employees, said since the start of COVID-19 the North Bay Regional Health Centre has eliminated 46 positions.

He said 17 terminations were due to non-compliance of COVID-19 policy. In six other terminations the employer felt there was just cause.

“Since the onset of Covid the employer has also eliminated (another) 23 jobs – 17 permanent full-time and six permanent part-time,” Campbell said.

“Unfortunately with all of the eliminations and terminations we’re going to arbitration on the majority of all those. We’re litigating all covid terminations and five of the other terminations.”

Lindsay Smylie Smith, communications specialist at the health care centre, said “itappears the 17 terminations were for non-compliance with policy. The other positions you are asking about are temporary roles for pandemic support and were not permanent roles.”

Hurley said in addition to the cuts, the North Bay Regional Health Centre “is fueling a record number of grievances – 95 alone between the beginning of January and the first week in April. Last year there were 117 for the entire year.

“CUPE 139 is very frustrated that its attempts to engage constructively with the hospital to resolve issues have been to no avail. The hospital should be trying to work with their staff and their unions to solve problems so they can keep as many front-line staff working taking care of patients,” he said.

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“Conflictual labour relations are incomprehensible given how much the hospital staff in North Bay have stepped up during the pandemic and they are harmful to the teamwork that hospital care relies on. The hospital is spending money on lawyers and arbitrators when this money should be going on up-staffing and patient care. How much is this hospital spending to fight its front-line staff?”

Hurley said hospital employees are reporting high rates of stress, post traumatic stress disorder and rising rates of dependency on drugs and alcohol.

He said CUPE members are reporting morale is “dismal” at the health care facility.

“We will be surveying our members so we can get a more accurate picture of the morale situation. We hope to have that by the end of May.”

Hurley said there is a climate of fear at the hospital.

“People are fearful of speaking up after the terrible experience of Sue McIntyre. We spent $500,000 (defending McIntyre), the hospital spent double that,” he said.

An Ontario arbitrator ruled the McIntyre, who was fired by the hospital for speaking out about workplace violence at a nursing conference, should get her job back without loss of benefits or seniority and will full compensation.

The decision came down in February 2018 and McIntyre returned to her job.

“NBRHC has to stop and look at how it’s treating its staff. There isn’t another hospital plagued with ongoing issues.”

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