- by Rob Rolfe

I wrote a poem recently, "Union Town", about the history of industrial unions in Owen Sound, which Larry Jensen subsequently put to music and turned into a song. Most of the Owen Sound factories of that era are gone, but the struggles of workers here continue. Here are my thoughts on the ongoing strike by OPSEU nurses and support staff at our local health clinic. It is a bitter labour dispute symptomatic of the efforts of some to put an end to good, decent-paying, unionized job.

Once upon a time in Ontario, good jobs were considered to be important in our local economy. Now, according to clinic spokesperson Smith Turner, doctors have found "a more efficient way to run operations with fewer staff". They came to this conclusion "after the strike began".

No wonder these workers are infuriated. They went on strike for better working conditions, and now by the doctors' own admission they have retaliated by threatening the nurses' jobs and ongoing employment.

I am a patient at this clinic, though I have stayed away rather than cross the picket lines. I have received treatment on more than one occasion by the nurses the clinic now says it can do without.

I do hope the Ontario Medical Association monitors this situation, so that other Ontario doctors don't ever treat their own employees in this fashion. Here in Owen Sound, it is practically impossible to secure a family physician without using this clinic. The doctors' behaviour, aside from being unfair and disrespectful to the nurses and support workers, the very people they work beside and with to provide local residents with healthcare, jeopardizes the health and well-being of the residents of this area.

These doctors have put profits ahead of good nursing and healthcare jobs. This has nothing to do with providing good healthcare.


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