KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – This week Canadian Blood Services workers, on strike for a long eight months in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, looked on helplessly while Nova Scotia workers, members of a different local of the same union, crossed their picket line.
Some picketers made their displeasure known in no uncertain terms.
The Nova Scotia workers, members of Local 12 of the Nova Scotia Union of Public and Private Employees (NSUPE), were there to conduct a mobile clinic at Miscouche.
Doing so was part of their trditional job description, they weren’t doing work otherwise done by members of the PEI local.
Refusal to cross the picket line could result in discipline against the individuals and fines against the union, the Nova Scotia workers had been advised. The union, rather than push the envelope, decided to follow that advice.
To witness the workers crossing the line was very hard on the PEI workers, says a disappointed Tanya Herrell, president of the eight members strong Local 19.
“My emotions are a bit rough right now. Today is the last day. Another long day, but we’ll do it, and go from there,” she tells the Nova Scotia Advocate.
The PEI workers, all women, want a guaranteed number of hours of work each week, in order to have a bit of certainty in their lives and qualify for health benefits. Their employer, Canadian Blood Services (CBS), has not budged.
Some Nova Scotia workers joined the striking women on the picket line on their lunch hour, Herrell says.
This was the first mobile clinic conducted in PEI since the start of the strike. CBS has stated that it decided to hold the clinic so as to maintain its connections with PEI donors, but Herrell doesn’t buy that.
“CBS is trying to get the two locals fighting,” she says. “The Nova Scotia contract is up as well. Division between the two locals will work in their favour.”
It is widely assumed that CBS intends to challenge the guaranteed hours clause in the Nova Scotia workers’ collective agreement as well.
“We want to make sure that both locals realize that this is not one local doing this to another. This is CBS doing this to us,” says Joe Kaiser, president of NSUPE, who joined the PEI workers on the picket line on the first day of the three-day mobile clinic.
“The PEI local is striking for everybody,” Kaiser adds.
Could the union defy the legal threats and send a clear signal of solidarity?
Given the potential heavy fines and discipline Kaiser doesn’t think so. There is no clause in the collective agreements to deal with this situation, because nothing like thist has ever happened before, he explains.
There is a silver lining, says Herrell. The number of people who ended up crossing the line to donate is very low.
“Many people who came to give blood decided to leave once we talked with them.. Most didn’t know we were still on the picket line, they assumed that the strike must be over if they were holding a clinic on PEI,” Herrell says.
:A huge thanks to all the donors that supported us, we met a lot of great people the last couple of days,” she says.
May 20th: Amended to clarify that the mobile clinic has always been conducted by the Nova Scotia workers. It was not a job typically done by workers in the PEI local.
Email Graham Sher, CEO of CBS (who scrapes by on a mere $700,000 a year) to let him know you support the Charlottetown workers. Stay current with the latest developments and show your support by joining the workers’ Facebook page.