Weekly event planned for striking Port Arthur Health Centre workers

Demonstrations to take place each Monday until management gets back to bargaining table

Supporters of the striking workers at the Port Arthur Health Centre in Thunder Bay, Ont., will begin a series of weekly actions on Monday aimed at calling the clinic’s doctors to the bargaining table.

The events, dubbed The Longest Picket Line in the World, will take place each Monday at midday outside the centre, where members of Unifor Local 229 have been on the picket line since April 9.

The union represents 65 staff members at the clinic, including appointment secretaries, medical aides and medical records staff.

All of them are women.

Two thirds of the women working at the centre are casual workers, according to the union, meaning they have no guaranteed hours of work from week to week. Wages are so low, the union said, that nearly 65 per cent of the employees will see an increase when the minimum wage goes up in January.
Organizers of the weekly actions chose a time frame of noon to 2:00 p.m. because that’s when both the physicians who employ the striking workers and the temporary employees taking their places take their lunch breaks, said organizer Lori Paras.

“We want to be there to see their faces and show them that we’re concerned about what they’re doing to these ladies,” she said.

The first event will include a hot dog BBQ, courtesy of a pair of donors who contributed hot dogs, fixings, coffee and juice, Paras said.

Lori Paras helped organize the Monday demonstrations in support of the striking workers. She said the events will continue until the doctors sit down to negotiate with their employees. Paras previously organized a walk in support of the striking workers, which took place on June 25.

She decided to keep the pressure on after learning that the action did not result in any talks.

“The doctors did not reach out, ask to sit down, follow up, nothing,” Paras said. “So we decided, well, if you’re not going to answer with that knock on the door, we’re going to knock on the door again, this time a little bit harder, by showing up and picketing with them and showing them our support.”

The protests will continue until the doctors sit down with the employees, she added.

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