Hospital cuts jobs of speech language pathologists in absence of orderly transfer

OWEN SOUND – Grey Bruce Health Services has cut the jobs of seven speech language pathologists and assistants and is hoping they will apply for new jobs at the Grey Bruce Health Unit.

The hospital has issued a memo stating that they “were not successful in reaching a seamless transfer of the program” that helps children with speech problems.

Workers received notice of layoff March 31, 2011. Their final day will be August 31.

The Ministry of Children and Youth approved transfer of the service to the Grey Bruce Health Unit, but made no provision for the pathologists and their assistants.

“The lack of a transfer agreement likely stems from an attempt by the Health Unit to take on the work without paying the existing salaries and benefits of the displaced workers,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the 130,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union. “This is a bald-faced attempt to save money on the backs of these workers.”

Whether the workers will migrate to the Health Unit is an open question given extreme shortages of speech language pathologists across the province.

Many may choose to take the severance from the hospital and work elsewhere.

The union is arguing the workers should be able to transfer with their rights intact, as have other displaced health care workers across the province.

“This is the health unit that can never get it right, so this is not entirely a surprise,” says Thomas. “And the gamble may backfire: If the health unit is unable to hire, parents may lose access to speech language pathology for their children.”

The Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act (PSLRTA) was introduced to facilitate a broad range of transfers within the health system. The Health Unit is arguing that they are outside the definition of a health provider and should not be subject to the legislation.

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