Thunder Bay

Plasma centre closure 'exports jobs,' union says

The union that represents workers at the soon-to-be-closed Canadian Blood Services plasma facility in Thunder Bay says the organization is buying plasma from the U.S. even as it shuts down its local production.

Canadian Blood Services maintains there's a surplus, so Thunder Bay facility can shut

The union that represents workers at the soon-to-be-closed Canadian Blood Services plasma facility in Thunder Bay says the organization is buying plasma from the U.S. even as it shuts down its local production.

CBS, which runs the national blood supply, plans to acquire more than 20,000 litres of plasma from sources in the United States this year, according to its annual report.

It also announced last month that its Thunder Bay plasma centre will close next week, leading to the loss of nearly 30 jobs, because of excess plasma supply in Canada.

"So what they are really doing is just exporting the work — importing plasma and exporting the jobs," said Len Mason, a staff representative with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

OPSEU alleges there's a potential health concern, because the U.S. relies on paid blood donors. It says that can encourage financially desperate donors to lie during the screening process.

But the plasma products the agency is purchasing in foreign countries are not the same as the plasma collected at the Thunder Bay centre, Canadian Blood Services's chief operating officer said.

"You're comparing apples to oranges. The plasma that we collect in Thunder Bay is plasma for transfusion," Ian Mumford said. CBS only gets it from five or six centres in Canada.

The products purchased internationally "are products that are different," he said. And they are safe, he added — contrary to what OPSEU suggested.

The union, along with local politicians, still wants the plasma centre to be kept open. Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs, city councillor and former mayor Ken Boshcoff, and OPSEU president Warren Thomas will speak at a rally Wednesday to press Canadian Blood Services not to close the facility.

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