Sudbury lost 700 jobs last month and the results of a poll released today indicates that overwhelmingly the community expects large employers like the regional hospital and MPP Glenn Thibeault to save jobs locally.

Group of women in winter clothing holding CUPE signs

91.9 per cent of those polled said they do not support a decision by Health Sciences North (HSN) to end its contract with Sudbury Hospital Services (SHS) and begin a new contract with a hospital laundry in Hamilton, a move that will kill 38 jobs. More than 84 per cent say they want HSN to reconsider its decision to contract hospital laundry to a company in southern Ontario.

“What’s clear from the poll is that local economic loyalty is very important to people here in Sudbury. The results show the hospital and our MPP are completely offside with the community’s expectations to keep people employed here, not send jobs south,” says Sharon Richer, secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) that commissioned the poll.

Over 83 per cent polled believe that HSN has an obligation to offer the laundry workers jobs at the hospital. 

“However, the hospital board has so far refused to give any special consideration to employing staff laid off at the laundry as a result of this decision. We will be treated like any member of the public applying, even though HSN owns the laundry and many of us have worked at the hospital laundry for decades,” says Gisele Dawson president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 2841 that represents the SHS laundry workers.

As part of provincial funding cuts to hospitals, Thibeault’s Liberal government is pushing for local hospitals, like HSN, to become part of large “shared” hospital services companies that are mostly located in southern and eastern Ontario. These companies are looking to expand their market.

92 per cent polled say keeping jobs in Sudbury is very important to them and about another 7 per cent say it is somewhat important. “Essentially Mr. Thibeault is on side with only 1 per cent of the people of Sudbury in moving this work elsewhere,” says Richer.

HSN has rationalized its decision by suggesting that shipping dirty linens down the highway to an out-of-Sudbury laundry, will save $500,000 a year. But over 92 per cent of poll respondents thought that keeping family-sustaining jobs in Sudbury was a more important consideration than cost-cutting.

“We want Mr. Thibeault and his government to make it clear that HSN will not lose funding if they keep work in Sudbury. We want the province to invest to upgrade equipment at the SHS laundry and we want Mr. Thibeault to make this happen by mid-March, before the layoffs are final,” says Richer.

6,000 people from the Sudbury community have signed a petition urging the hospital to keep these jobs local. Over 1600 people are on a Facebook page in support of these workers.

“We have strong support in the community. So much so, that we believe the laundry is being closed early to shut the clamour down to keep the laundry open,” says Dawson.