Vania Tse | CUPE Research

Blood moneyWe often think of bargaining mostly as a tool for gaining rights for our members. But the gains we make in collective bargaining can also improve the health and lives of people outside our unions as well.

Take, for instance, the issue of paid plasma. It is recognized worldwide that the safest blood with the lowest risk of bloodborne infections comes from regular, unpaid donors. But there is a growing market for paid blood donations, and this raises many concerns.

The Krever inquiry, launched after the tainted blood crisis of the 1980s, recommended that donors not be paid; that profit should not be made from blood or blood products; and that Canada should work towards plasma self-sufficiency.

A national public agency, Canadian Blood Services (CBS), was set up to collect blood and ensure the safety of our national supply. However, Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR) – a private, for-profit clinic – has now burst onto the scene, offering to pay people for plasma and, by doing so, undermining the very principles that make our blood system safe.

CPR aims to have at least 10 clinics across the country in the next few years. It has already opened clinics in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, and is in the process of setting up two locations in BC.

The problem lies in the safety of the blood supply. When donors are motivated by money, they are more likely to lie about why their blood may be unsuitable – and unsafe – for donation. Paying for plasma also weakens Canada’s voluntary donor base, as donors stop giving to the public system for free.

Even worse, any Canadian plasma collected by private clinics will be exported to the highest bidder, mixed with American plasma to make pharmaceuticals, then sold back into Canada for a whopping profit. Rather than benefit Canadians, paid-for plasma lines the pockets of multinational corporations and threatens Canada’s ability to secure its own supply of blood and blood products.

Bargain for blood donation time

One immediate way to deal with this issue is through contract language, making it easier for workers to donate blood with no loss of time or pay. Propose language for your collective agreement.

Such language would acknowledge blood donation as an important civic duty, help secure our national supply and move us closer to self-sufficiency.

What might seem like a small, innocuous proposal could, contract by contract, create a ripple effect with big results: saving lives across the nation.

For more information, click here.