Strik­ing work­ers get cold shoul­der from govern­ment

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

Cana­dian Blood Ser­vices (CBS) work­ers have been on strike for al­most five, grind­ing months in Char­lot­te­town. Since they set up picket lines late last sum­mer, work­ers say sup­port from the com­mu­nity is help­ing to boost their spir­its. But one area where sup­port is lack­ing is with the pro­vin­cial govern­ment.

Granted, the is­sue in­volves a na­tional union with a na­tional em­ployer. The prov­ince doesn’t want to go look­ing for trou­ble if it can be avoided. But the strike in­volves lo­cal res­i­dents, the CBS col­lec­tion site is in Char­lot­te­town and picket lines have ro­tated to pro­vin­cial govern­ment build­ings to draw at­ten­tion to the is­sue.

There are lots of tax dol­lars go­ing to sup­port CBS and the strike must have some im­pact on the blood sup­ply for P.E.I hospi­tals. Col­lec­tion clin­ics are suf­fer­ing. How does the prov­ince not get in­volved?

The union is seek­ing help in get­ting a set­tle­ment and the min­is­ters re­spon­si­ble for labour and health have turned a deaf ear. An ear­lier at­tempt was made ear­lier to have a meet­ing with Health Min­is­ter Doug Cur­rie but he de­clined. The union is hop­ing to have bet­ter luck with new min­is­ter, Robert Hen­der­son.

There were 11 work­ers on the picket line when the strike be­gan Sept. 7 and now eight are still bravely hold­ing out hope for a set­tle­ment. Work­ers have been with­out a con­tract since March 2011.

Un­like most strikes where wages are the usual stum­bling block, CBS work­ers are seek­ing guar­an­teed min­i­mum hours and the ben­e­fits as­so­ci­ated with them.

The strik­ers have got­ten some help from P.E.I. labour — es­pe­cially around Christ­mas­time — and from Is­lan­ders drop­ping off treats and honk­ing horns. CBS is drag­ging its feet on this is­sue and has re­fused to budge.

CBS also seems to want a part-time, on-de­mand work­force which is re­quired to be on call in case they are needed. The work­ers ob­vi­ously love their jobs if they are will­ing to be out on the picket lines in the cold, snow and rain for the past 140 days.

The prov­ince could at last sig­nal its in­ter­est in see­ing the strike come to an end. The two sides did re­sume talks in late Novem­ber but ne­go­ti­a­tions broke down in early De­cem­ber and have not re­sumed.

The prov­ince could urge both sides to re­turn to the bar­gain­ing ta­ble; it could of­fer a me­di­a­tor; or talk to the fed­eral min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for labour. It could at least sig­nal it has some con­cern.

The prov­ince’s stay-on-the-side­lines stance is hard to un­der­stand.

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