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(Thunder Bay) Striking public health workers with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit are expressing concern that the agency may not be meeting its mandate to the public during the current labour dispute.

As an example, CUPE says the Health Units 10 Public Health Inspectors issued over 60 “boil water” orders last year. These orders were issued to municipalities, restaurants and commercial and industrial establishments.

“Without the Health Inspectors on the job we simply cannot be sure how safe the drinking water is,” says Jules Tupker, CUPEs National Representative. “Many of the restaurants out on the highways in the district have their own wells and were concerned that these wells are simply not being monitored while the strike is on,” says Tupker.

The Health Inspectors also conducted over 2,500 restaurant inspections and over 450 general health hazard complaints in 2000. Says Tupker, “The Health Unit has one supervisor handling all these serious issues at this time, and we are concerned that the public may be at risk.”

“The Health Units two Septic Inspectors investigated over 160 complaints for improper functioning septic systems in 2000. We are concerned that the supervisor, who has no background in septic systems, will not be able to ensure that these issues are being dealt with on a timely basis.”

The Health Units Business Administrator continues to claim that everything is under control, but we wonder just how factual that assertion is,” says the CUPE National Rep.

CUPE says Health Inspection services arent being maintained - sexual health, immunization, healthy baby and travel clinics are all being under utilized. School based dental services have all been cancelled.

Tupker is urging the Health Unit to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement so that Local 1759 members can get back to ensuring the safety of the public.

Members of CUPE Local 1759 began job action on February 23, and argue their demand for the same wages as their counterparts in other Northern Ontario health units could easily be handled by the agency. The 40 unionized employees of the Board of Health are Health Inspectors, RPNs (Registered Practical Nurses), Dental Hygienists, Clerical Staff and Computer Technicians.

For information:
Jules Tupker, CUPE National Rep.
(807) 274-9811 (o)
Vince Chiodo, President, Local 1759
(807) 344-1921 (h)
John McCracken, CUPE Communications Rep.
(416) 292-3999 (o)