Port Arthur Health Centre staff vote for strike action in Thunder Bay, Ont.

The union representing approximately 65 employees at the Port Arthur Health Centre in Thunder Bay, Ont., says members have voted "overwhelmingly" in favour of strike action if a new deal can't be reached.

Lack of permanent positions, job security, compensation are main issues, union says

The union representing approximately 65 employees at the Port Arthur Health Centre in Thunder Bay, Ont. say they have voted in favor of strike action and will be asking for a no board report. (Gord Ellis / CBC)

The union representing approximately 65 employees at the Port Arthur Health Centre in Thunder Bay, Ont., says members have voted "overwhelmingly" in favour of strike action if a new deal can't be reached.

In a statement issued Thursday, officials at Unifor Local 229 said the collective agreement between the 65 employees and the clinic expired on December 31, 2017. The union represents medical aides, appointment secretaries and medical records workers.

"Really, the key issues for our workers in this round are stability, job security and trying to level the playing field," Kari Jefford, the union local president told CBC News. "The wages and compensation are far, far behind their comparators even within the city of Thunder Bay."

The union said a lack of permanent positions and an over-reliance on casual work is at the heart of the job security concerns.
Kari Jefford is the president of Unifor local 229 in Thunder Bay, Ont. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

While the contract expired at the end of 2017, Jefford said talks with the health centre started late in the fall, stating those negotiations were "not easy by any stretch."

Workers voted over 95 per cent in favour of strike action Wednesday night, Jefford said, with over 60 of the 65 employees casting a vote. Still, she said, walking off the job is a last resort.

"It's the last thing we want to see," Jefford said. "Our goal and the workers' goal is to get a deal that's fair for everybody and to ensure that there is work for everybody moving forward."

The union has applied for conciliation and will be asking for a "no board report," according to officials. A no board starts the clock ticking on a deadline to call a strike or lockout.

The Port Arthur Health Centre has not yet responded to CBC News' request for comment.