CarePartners … or Partner in Crime?

Solidarity for Sudbury workers locked out May 31

The scheduling staff, who are paid a maximum of $16 per hour, weren’t asking for the moon when they met to bargain with private homecare corporation CarePartners. The Sudbury workers, represented by USW Local 2020, wanted contract language around bullying and harassment, and wage parity with their counterparts in Kitchener who are paid $4 more per hour by the same employer for the same job. CarePartners tabled nothing but concessions, including clawing back sick days, health benefits and pensions. When the sixteen workers – all but one of whom are women – turned down the company’s final, they were immediately locked out.

That was May 31. As People’s Voice goes to press, the workers are still locked out and the company is still refusing to negotiate. The union has organized a mass action, calling on the provincial government to force CarePartners to return to the table – the logic is that the company’s intransigence amounts to withholding public healthcare services, for which CarePartners is contracted by the province.

The Sudbury schedulers handle a massive geographic area, from Moosonee to Gravenhurst to Thunder Bay to North Bay. Coordinating homecare visits over such a huge area means knowing how to access isolated communities in northern Ontario.

CarePartners is a private company, so its financial information is not publicly available. However, it is clearly benefiting by preying on government outsourcing of health services. By partnering with Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) it has grown from a small home-based business in CEO Linda Knight’s basement to a major player in Ontario healthcare that employs nearly 5000 people.

It’s a for-profit company that gets paid by the public, and as such it’s a key factor in the privatization of healthcare.

In fact, Linda Knight (or someone with that same name…) seems to be so smitten with the combination of healthcare privatization and reduced workers’ rights that she (or someone with that same name…) made large donations to Doug Ford’s Conservatives this year and in 2018. The contributions only began last year, after Ford was elected Tory leader, and there is no record that Knight (or someone with that same name…) donated to any other party before or since.

This isn’t the first time CarePartners has fought with its unionized workers – it has had repeated labour disputes with numerous unions at its different locations.

The lockout in Sudbury is a lesson to all workers in Ontario, about the perils of the neoliberal agenda of privatization and attacks on labour rights. Sixteen schedulers are standing firm against an anti-union employer that is a partner in crime with the worst right-wing elements in provincial politics. Their struggle needs, and deserves, active solidarity and support from across Ontario.

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