Eastern Health workers protest cuts

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Job security, threat of privatization concern NAPE members

Dan Whitten (left) who works for Eastern Health as a cook, and Leo Hutchings, a food service worker, join other Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees as Eastern Health workers demonstrate outside St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital Thursday. They were protesting the announcement Tuesday by Eastern Health that it will eliminate the equivalent of 550 full-time jobs to save $43 million. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Signs firmly gripped and shouting slogans with gusto, members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital in St. John’s held a two-hour demonstration Thursday in response to cuts announced Tuesday by Eastern Health.

In order to save $43 million, the regional health authority is set to eliminate the equivalent of 550 full-time positions through a combination of attrition, reduced overtime, and cutbacks to temporary positions, among other measures.

The fact permanent employees will not receive layoff notices is cold comfort for Dan Whitten, who has been a cafeteria worker at the hospital for 31 years.

‘Nobody is safe’

“My concern is for everybody. Nobody is safe. All these temporary employees we have, they’re playing a major role. It’s not just the permanent workers. A lot of work is being picked up by the temporaries, and if these people are laid off, God help the health care, I’m telling you right now.

“They’re all my friends. They are families that I’m worrying about. It starts at the top and works itself down the line. Every family is going to be affected here in St. John’s and wherever.”

Among those Whitten is concerned about is his own daughter, Renee Whitten, a licensed practical nurse who also works at St. Clare’s, albeit in a temporary position. Of late, she has been filling in as a personal care attendant.

“I’m scared for my future as a nurse. I’m scared for my family. Sometimes I wake up and think I don’t know why I chose this profession. Before, I never felt that way, but lately, it’s something that’s been crossing my mind more and more.”

‘We’re at the bare minimum as it is,’ says local president

Dan Whitten was among those workers who attended a meeting Tuesday about the impending changes.

“When people walked out of that meeting, you could see a lot of people with water in their eyes, because it really hurt.”

Scott Mercer, local president for NAPE 6207, is skeptical of Eastern Health’s assertion the cuts will not hurt patient care.

“We’re at the bare minimum as it is, and for me, I just don’t understand the reasons for it.”

Mercer said housekeeping at the hospital was informed that 2 1/2  positions will be lost as a result of the changes.

“How is that not losing permanent jobs? Those 2 1/2 positions being taken out today, who picks up the work?”

The full-time equivalent measurement system uses the total hours worked by staff to equal the hours that account for a full-time job. This means two or more people can work a full-time job.

NAPE president Carol Furlong, addressing the demonstrators shortly after noon, called Tuesday’s announcement the first step towards privatizing health-care services in Newfoundland and Labrador, referencing Eastern Health’s plan to privatize all non-patient food services.

“I’d say the people of this province have got to say no to privatization of any health-care service,” she said, to which the demonstrators responded with a repeated chant of “No.”

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael and Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons also addressed demonstrators Thursday, with each politician voicing support for the plight of the workers.

Mercer said some of the temporary employees at St. Clare’s have worked with that designation for 12 to 15 years. Even though permanent workers may not face the threat of layoff notices, he said they are concerned about whether they may be forced to work at a different facility as a result of the impending changes.

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TeleAndrew

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, Mercy Hospital

Geographic location: Eastern Health, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Healthcare worker
    June 01, 2012 - 13:56

    If you honestly believed Vicki when she said that tims workers get paid 28/hr than you are sadly mistaken!! Top paid is 19.50, and get over it!! This is exactly why she said it! To turn the public against the employees!! Get the facts straight before you turn your back on us!! It could be you very well next week!

  • Blair Brookfield
    June 01, 2012 - 12:31

    $28/hr to to serve donuts at the Health Sciences Tim Horton's? The taxpayers of Newfoundland should be protesting this BS. Maybe it's time we organized a "coffee party".

    • Wheetking
      June 01, 2012 - 14:07

      They are FSW 1's, they make $17-$19.50, this was a misleading comment intended to inflame the public, now google "Kaminski salary" if you's like to be further inflamed...

    • bob
      June 01, 2012 - 16:49

      Maybe Blair you should host the coffee party. Before you post maybe you should do your homework, they make between 17-19 an hour. My question is how much money did it cost to put not one but two Tim Horton's at the HSC. Franchise fees alone are 1 million plus, for the use Tim Horton's name alone. So before they pour even 1 cup of coffee, WE THE TAXPAYERS ARE OUT 2 MILLION PLUS. My question is who made the decision to put Tim's at the HSC, I'm sure the workers did not make this decision, hmmm let me think MANAGEMENT. So where should the cuts take place. Let you decide on that one when you have your coffee party.

  • Mainlander
    June 01, 2012 - 09:08

    I would like to hear the protestors suggestions for alternatives to layoffs. Where else can they make changes to save money other than headcount reductions?

    • Wheetking
      June 01, 2012 - 14:03

      Google "Kaminski salary" and you may find your answer...

  • Brett
    June 01, 2012 - 09:07

    I don't understand why non-patient food services is considered health care...

  • Fairness in reporting please
    June 01, 2012 - 08:43

    At the bare minimum? I'd like to see comparisons with other jurisdictions on staffing levels before passing judgement on that. That would be a great in depth story, please investigate.

    • Early August
      June 01, 2012 - 09:42

      I encourage anyone who knows a resident at one of our province's nursing homes, to pay them a visit sometime. It will not take you long to see how nursing staff, for example, are trying to keep up with all the demands of providing care. Even the "good homes" that have had a positive reputation over the years are starting to slip in the quality of care. If you are a resident without family support, God help you...