OPSEU members at the South Bruce Grey Health Centre are fuming over a plan that will force some of the hospital’s lowest paid workers to travel far from their home communities to maintain part-time jobs.
Despite never having a problem filling a service shift, the hospital has decided to turn its former dietary and housekeeping staff into multi-service, multi-site workers.
That means a worker from Durham may have to travel an hour to Kincardine for as little as a four-hour shift. On their journey they may pass a colleague from Kincardine travelling in the opposite direction. Many had previously been in situations where they could walk to work.
Common sense would allow the workers to trade shifts to stay close to home. Brenda Rantz, SBGHC VP of Corporate Development and Labour Relations, has told the workers they cannot do so despite clear language in their OPSEU collective agreements that says otherwise.
To move these workers around the region will be costly. Gas, car maintenance and higher insurance premiums will all be borne by these workers – not the hospital.
Given the impetus towards a greener public sector, it is difficult to understand the rational behind a needless directive that will put more workers on the road.
Many are fearful of having to travel long distances over ice-covered roads in winter time. The region is known for treacherous conditions caused by blowing snow.
In addition, the union is in dispute with the hospital over the wage rates of the newly classified multi-purpose workers. Many are actually taking a pay cut to maintain jobs at the hospital. Coupled with the additional costs of having to needlessly drive around the region, this is an unfair burden on those least able to afford it.
The union intends to battle the hospital over these changes, including grieving the violation of the collective agreement. Evidently the hospital has failed to get the message earlier this summer – staff morale is failing at SBGHC and the quality of patient care may be compromised.
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Meanwhile, the plan to end fresh food service at SBGHC and replace it with frozen reheated food is stumbling along. All four sites of the hospital will have to undergo considerable renovation to accommodate what many staff consider to be a lot of disruption and expense for an inferior outcome. With costly renovations taking place and the need for specialized equipment to reheat and maintain the food, the community needs to start asking what the actual benefit may be. Staff has asked how patients will be fed when their kitchens are dismantled during renovations. They have yet to get an answer. It’s time for SBGHC to stop telling us everything is “a process,” and instead show the community that they have, in fact, a rational plan.