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
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
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.”