Women of Port Arthur Health Centre Strike for a Living Wage

– Maybe they want to starve us out. That’s the way it’s looking right now. They might be thinking that – oh we’re just going to bust the union. You know what I mean? I mean, we’ve been out for nine weeks, but not once have they even
attempted to talk through the mediators, which has
been requested twice. It’s the lowest paid in all of Ontario. Like for example, we have several members, they’ve been there 30 plus
years, $14.71 an hour. $14.71 an hour. – From the outside looking
in, it’s difficult. You have 65 – all women – workers. The public assumes that these
workers are very well paid, well respected, well
taken care of employees. And that couldn’t be
further from the truth. – 31 years and I make $14.71 an hour. And I’m what they call the go-to person. They’d take me back in a
heartbeat because I’m a good deal. I do lots for $14.71 an hour. – The two clinics in
Thunder Bay are essentially almost exact operations. At the Fort William Health
Centre they’re paid, probably, in the neighbourhood of three to four dollars more an hour for workers who essentially
do the same work. The Port Arthur Health Centre is financially lucrative and very viable. So it was real disheartening. They weren’t arguing that they didn’t have the ability to pay. That they were focused
on keeping their overhead and operating costs low, which essentially means
that they want to keep the profit margin as high as possible. – It’s hard to negotiate
a fair living wage. No one expects to be rich, but when you have doctors
that are billing $1,698 every 60 minutes saying to my members, you’re not worth it and you
get paid too much money. And they’re saying that to patients while our members are
out on a strike line. – We’re not asking for the world, we’re just asking for a fair living wage. I said, we’re not even asking for as much as a lot of the other clinics pay. But these women are expected
to do all kinds of procedures that most people would expect a nurse or at least a nurse practitioner, somebody with higher training to do. – These are the facts, 39 of your 65 women are casual, they will not hire part time, they will not post permanent postings. – There’s a number of women
that have been working for a number of years, anywhere from 6 to 15 years, as casuals. To me, that’s not casual anymore, you’re showing a commitment
to your workplace. Why isn’t the workplace
showing a commitment to you? – But at least I have benefits, but the other girls don’t even have that. They can’t even get a credit card. They can’t get mortgages. You know, and that’s not
fair in this day and age. – If we don’t keep the union
in place in this facility, no one will ever get ahead there. They will always just pay minimum wage. And I mean, some days
you don’t … it’s hard. But you do it. – [Interviewer] And financially? – It’s hard emotionally and financially. – It’s about an employer who really has the ability to pay and offer
these workers a fair wage and a fair tentative settlement, just using their position to
only think about themselves, and even disregard the
care for their patients. At this point we’ve been
out for over two months now. The employer has outright
refused to sit down with us. My fear is that the
employer has one goal here at the end of the day, and that’s to try and break the union, to break these women’s will, to have them come back
essentially un-unionized and under whatever
conditions the management would want them to. – We have to win. Because I mean, you can’t go back. That’s just like going back
to the stone ages, right? I mean, this is supposed to
be a progressive society.

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