Kevin Flynn, Ontario’s labour minister is in Sudbury today and soon to be laid off hospital laundry workers would love a word with him. Problem is, they can’t really afford to pay the hefty ticket price to join the minister at the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce luncheon where he’s slated to speak.

“The ticket prices are too dear for us and we also only have a half hour for lunch. So we are asking if Minister Flynn would kindly come see us at the laundry following our afternoon shift. It would mean a lot to the 38 of us who may not have jobs in a few weeks if he took the time to visit with us. We hear he’s a thoughtful, empathetic minister. We want him to know directly how his government’s policy to merge hospital services is losing jobs and affecting working people here in Sudbury,” says Gisele Dawson, president of local 2841 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 2841).

Last fall, Health Sciences North (HSN) announced that it was severing its near five-decade-long contract with the local hospital laundry, a facility HSN is a principal owner of, to the Mohawk Shared Services laundry operation in Hamilton. In total, 38 unionized and six management staff will lose their jobs at the Sudbury laundry, by end of March.

The Chamber of Commerce promotion bills the luncheon as a “meet the minister” event, with the only tickets still available for purchase (online) ranging from $500 to $5,000.  It also says that the minister is there to describe what the government is doing to ensure we are keeping up with the changing nature of work”, and he’ll outline “why 2017 is shaping up to be a landmark year for protecting workers…”

Michael Hurley, president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), says the minister’s visit to Sudbury, which for the last few years has had a stubbornly high unemployment rate, is a “timely opportunity for him to review the extremely unpopular decision, to kill these local jobs. Unfortunately, it’s also ironic that Mr. Flynn is here to talk about protecting workers. We ask that he indeed protect the hospital laundry workers and reverse these needless job cuts.”

This week, the City of Greater Sudbury Council opted to broaden the lens on the hospital laundry workers’ layoffs, when all but one councillor, voted to support compiling an economic impact evaluation of HSN’s decision to contract with a hospital laundry service in Hamilton.

“We are very heartened by council’s decision to assess the losses to Sudbury’s local economy of shipping hospital laundry jobs to southern Ontario. It would be great to see the Chamber of Commerce get on board too, to keep our jobs here in Sudbury. We encourage them to show leadership on the issue because our jobs and our family’s livelihoods are worth advocating for,” says Dawson.