Still fight­ing

Com­mu­nity sup­port and a be­lief they de­serve bet­ter give eight strik­ing Cana­dian Blood Ser­vices em­ploy­ees in Char­lot­te­town much-needed in­cen­tive

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - PROVINCE - THE GUARDIAN dstew­art@the­guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/DveSte­wart

Sup­port from the com­mu­nity is help­ing to boost the spir­its of eight blood ser­vice em­ploy­ees still on strike in Char­lot­te­town.

That’s how Tanya Her­rell, pres­i­dent of the lo­cal union that rep­re­sents the Cana­dian Blood Ser­vices (CBS) work­ers, de­scribes it.

“At Christ­mas time we had a lot of sup­port,’’ Her­rell said on Wed­nes­day as she and fel­low striker Leanne Vou­tour braved the chilly tem­per­a­tures out­side the CBS build­ing on Fitzroy Street.

“We had a Christ­mas meal do­nated to each of us and we were given gift cards for our fam­i­lies and our chil­dren.’’

Wed­nes­day was Day 136 on the picket line for the work­ers who are all part-time, fight­ing for guar­an­teed min­i­mum hours and the ben­e­fits as­so­ci­ated with them.

Talks be­tween the two sides broke off last month, and there’s no word on when they might re­sume.

Some peo­ple sim­ply drive by and honk their horns in sup­port. One man pulled over and handed the women gift cards for Star­bucks.

Sisira Siriwardane, a new­comer who worked as a doc­tor in Kenya be­fore mov­ing to Char­lot­te­town, walked up and gave each of the women a warm hug.

“I think it’s time to get some good re­sults ( for the work­ers), a so­lu­tion on their side,’’ Siriwardane told The Guardian. “It’s high time (CBS came back to the bar­gain­ing ta­ble). It’s been four months.

“I have never seen this type of trade union ac­tion or any­thing like it. I hope there is a so­lu­tion that (works in the em­ploy­ees’ favour).’’

Her­rell said they tried to meet with for­mer P.E.I. Health Min­is­ter Doug Cur­rie but “he wouldn’t see us’’. They are cur­rently try­ing to sched­ule a meet­ing with cur­rent Health Min­is­ter Robert Hen­der­son. Al­though it’s not a pro­vin­cial is­sue, Her­rell said it could still be a pro­duc­tive meet­ing.

“There is a lot of tax­pay­ers’ money that goes to­ward the Cana­dian Blood Ser­vices, so speak­ing with the health min­is­ter, it’s a health is­sue. Blood is needed ev­ery­where.’’

John Han­ra­han, pres­i­dent of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Cana­dian Unions (CCU), the coun­try’s largest fed­er­a­tion of in­de­pen­dent labour unions, was in Char­lot­te­town this week to lend his sup­port.

“CBS has to come back to the ta­ble,’’ Han­ra­han told The Guardian. “Th­ese women de­serve bet­ter. (CBS doesn’t) want to guar­an­tee any hours for their staff; they want a part-time, on­de­mand work­force across the coun­try.’’

Han­ra­han said the em­ploy­ees, who are re­quired to be on call in case they are needed, want no fewer than 18.5 hours per week in or­der to be cov­ered for health ben­e­fits.

“Th­ese ladies are fight­ing for all CBS work­ers across the na­tion, for guar­an­teed hours and ben­e­fits.’’

The Guardian did reach out to Cana­dian Blood Ser­vices for a com­ment, but there was no im­me­di­ate re­sponse.

Vou­tour says with the sup­port of the com­mu­nity they in­tend to keep go­ing.

“We wouldn’t have stood out here for 136 days if we didn’t love our jobs,’’ Vou­tour said. “We love work­ing here. This is where we want to be and we’re fight­ing to get what we think we de­serve.’’

A rally is planned in Char­lot­te­town on Jan. 30 with de­tails to be an­nounced soon.

DAVE STE­WART/THE GUARDIAN

Sisira Siriwardane, a new­comer from Kenya now liv­ing in Char­lot­te­town, dropped by Wed­nes­day to lend his sup­port to eight em­ploy­ees of the Cana­dian Blood Ser­vices who have been on strike for the past four months. They are de­mand­ing at least 18.5 hours a week in or­der to qual­ify for health ben­e­fits. Talks broke off in early De­cem­ber.

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