With stubbornly high unemployment, Sudbury can’t afford any more job loss, say laid off Sudbury Hospital Services laundry workers. Following a brief meeting with Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault at a downtown coffee shop last weekend, the hospital laundry staff renewed their appeal for him to intervene and keep jobs local. They will be taking their call for help to keep their hospital laundry jobs, directly to Thibeault’s doorstep on Wednesday, November 2 with a rally at the Sudbury MPP’s area office.

Health Sciences North (HSN) which owns Sudbury Hospital Service announced recently it was taking its hospital laundry business to an operation in Hamilton. As a consequence, 40 (both unionized and not) Sudbury Hospital Services employees will lose their jobs.

“In many ways we — 40 hospital laundry workers — are the real life faces of unemployment in Sudbury. Regardless how hard he tries to distance himself from his government’s plans to consolidate hospital services, it is creating job loss in Sudbury. We aren’t just numbers in a quarterly report on unemployment rates. We are real people and job loss is happening to us and our families. But unfortunately it’s also happening to countless others in Sudbury. On November 2 we’ll be asking Mr. Thibeault to act so that we keep our jobs local instead of down the highway in southern Ontario,” says Gisele Dawson who has worked at Sudbury Hospital Services for 21 years.

It’s not just Dawson who thinks Sudbury is dealing with high job loss, so does Statistics Canada. According to the agency, Sudbury’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the country and throughout the summer, the highest in Ontario. Recent data shows Sudbury has 7.7 per cent unemployment while Hamilton, where the hospital laundry jobs are going, is at just over 6 per cent.

“Our MPP should be more than concerned that there are already 15 more people unemployed in Sudbury per thousand than in Hamilton. That’s 24 per cent higher. Yet our jobs are being killed and work moved to Hamilton. It’s the provincial government with too low hospital funding and a push to merge services that’s fueling job loss here. Families are suffering locally and we are asking Mr. Thibeault to take this on and keep the jobs here,” says Sudbury resident and secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), Sharon Richer.

Since 2013, Hamilton has held steady at around 6 per cent unemployment. Compare that to Greater Sudbury unemployment which has consistently increased from March 2014 to March 2016 — just as unemployment decreased in the rest of Ontario. 

“These layoffs, courtesy of the Ontario government, will exacerbate that trend,” says OCHU president Michael Hurley.

HSN has said that it is severing its contract with Sudbury Hospital Services to comply with the provincial government’s directives through regional health bodies to integrate and consolidate services, ostensibly to cut costs.

“We appreciate that it may be painful for Mr. Thibeault to hear that Sudbury’s higher than the provincial average local unemployment rate is in part tied to his government’s policies. With the loss of the hospital contract, not only are 40 laundry staff losing work, it is highly unlikely that a local business (Sudbury Hospital Services) that has been in operation since 1970 will survive. We think that it should be very sobering for Mr. Thibeault to consider the actual impact of low hospital funding on jobs and businesses in his community,” says Hurley who will attend the November 2 rally at Thibeault’s Sudbury office.