Ontario Nurses Under Attack!


THE firing of the head nurse at London Health Sciences Centre illustrates a larger systemic problem of hospital bosses trying to muzzle their staff, declared the president of the Ontario Nurses Association on Tuesday.

Vanessa Burkoski, chief nursing executive at London Health Sciences was fired earlier this month after the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario released a report critical of the Canadian province’s plan to replace registered nurses with cheaper, less qualified health care workers.

Vanessa Burkoski said she was ‘shocked, absolutely shocked’ when she was fired.

The boss of the largest hospital in London, Ontario, sacked his chief nurse to stop her from speaking out against changes that put patients across Ontario in harm’s way, charged Linda Haslam-Stroud, the head of the powerful nursing association.

Nurse Burkoski, who is also president of the association that produced the report, was offered a cash settlement to resign on three separate occasions, but she refused. Then the hospital’s CEO Murray Glendining fired her.

‘This is not uncommon,’ said Linda Haslam-Stroud. ‘We are seeing this across the province where nurses at many levels are being forced to be muzzled for fear of losing their positions.’

Glendining refused requests for interviews, instead issuing a written statement, saying: ‘We can confirm that Vanessa Burkoski is no longer an employee at London Health Sciences Centre. LHSC does not comment on any personnel matters.’

Doris Grinspun, leader of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO), said: ‘It’s the most disgraceful thing I’ve seen in my 20 years at RNAO’. ”Glendining fired Burkoski not for her work at the London hospital, where she received stellar reviews, served as a vice president and looked after safety and quality of care, but because she was serving as president of the RNAO when in May it produced a report that exposed how Ontario hospitals had harmed patients by replacing registered nurses with cheaper and less educated health care workers,’ Grinspun said.

‘Glendining isn’t the first Ontario hospital boss to try to muzzle hospitals’ top nurses,’ Grinspun said. Patients suffer the consequences because chief nurses are the safety valves. We are outraged about this level of intimidation of nurses by CEOs who treat their hospitals like private organisations.

‘But the London hospital boss went further by firing a nurse whose leadership in Ontario was almost unrivalled – before coming to London in 2011, Burkoski was the longest-serving provincial chief nursing officer, advising three Ontario health ministers.

‘(Burkoski) is a person of stellar integrity, judgment and experience,’ Grinspun added. ‘(Her firing) is just unconscionable.’ Nurse Burkoski was called into Glendining’s office on June 8th to discuss the report produced by RNAO, called Mind the Safety Gap.

When she arrived, she was met by Glendining and his vice-president for human resources, Stephen Coulahan and offered a cash settlement if she would resign. When Nurse Burkoski refused, she said the two men asked her to reconsider, then meet with them again on Monday.

Two more times, she said, she refused to resign with a cash settlement. ‘After three requests for my gracious exit, they asked me if I understood what a termination meant in terms of (my) reputation,’ she said.

Glendining fired her, and then on Tuesday, sent to senior hospital leaders a vague email to announce that Burkoski was gone. ‘Vanessa Burkoski, Chief Nursing Executive, and Vice President, Professional Scholarly Practice is no longer with London Health Sciences Centre. We thank her for her contributions and wish her the best,’ the hospital boss wrote in the emails.

The sudden departure and terse note left some wondering if Burkoski had done something untoward or even illegal, Grinspun said.

• The Canadian Union of Postal Workers is accusing Canada Post of bargaining in bad faith, and is fearful they may be locked out come July 2. Canada Post has issued an ‘advisory’, telling customers they are preparing for possible strike action once a 21-day cooling-off period is over next week.

The corporation issued a notice advising customers to get their mail and parcels in the post by certain dates to ensure delivery before July 2. Craig Dyer of CUPW says Canada Post appears to be provoking the union. He found out last night that Purolator workers were asked not to take their vacations come July 2. Canada Post operates Purolator.

He says the corporation appears to be provoking the union or is getting ready to lock the union out. Purolator denies asking any of its employees to give up vacation time, nor will it take any Canada Post material in the event of a possible labour disruption.

• Workers at the large General Motors assembly plant in Oshawa say they fear that without new production announcements from the company, they could be left with few vehicles to build by next summer.

Representatives from Unifor Local 222 say they suspect production for two of the four models they currently build will be moved to other plants in Canada, the United States, or even China, by summer 2017.

Unifor’s master bargaining committee chairperson for GM, Greg Moffatt said that the Buick Regal sedan and the Chevrolet Equinox SUV will be ‘built-out’ or reach the end of their production cycle before a redesign by next summer.

‘The next-generation Buick (Regal) will be made in China,’ Moffatt told reporters at a news conference in Oshawa on Tuesday. Union leaders said the fact that no new vehicle announcements have been made by GM amounts to an ‘exit strategy’ by GM to eventually shutter the factory.

He said the Equinox, which is currently built in two locations in Canada, may be moved completely to the CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll near London, Ontario when it is redesigned. That leaves the plant to build the Chevrolet Impala, which is also built in Detroit, and the Cadillac XTS.

Moffatt said that the Cadillac, a full-size luxury sedan, is sold in such small volumes there wouldn’t be enough work ‘for one shift’ of Oshawa workers if it was the only car left for them to build.

The plant lost production of the Chevrolet Camaro coupe and convertibles to a plant in Michigan in November 2015, costing 1,000 workers their jobs. We don’t want GM to turn Oshawa into another Flint, Michigan,’ Unifor 222 President Colin James said, referring to the long-decline of the city where GM was founded in 1908.

The workers are calling on the federal and provincial governments to pressure GM to make a firm commitment on the assembly plant’s future and assign new vehicles for it to build.

• A rally outside the Mexican Consulate in Vancouver on Tuesday condemned the Mexican government for its brutal repression of teachers in Oaxaca. The gathering came two days after police violence in Oaxaca that left an estimated 12 dead and as many as 100 wounded.

Protesters in Vancouver vowed continued support for striking teachers and denounced the role of the Mexican government. Human rights groups are demanding that Mexico immediately release detained teachers.

Masked gunmen fired on striking teachers and their supporters while the police were trying to evict them from a road blockade on the Oaxaca-Puebla highway on Sunday. Teachers from the CNTE union set up the blockade as part of protests over the flawed reforms implemented by President Enrique Peña Nieto and the arrest of several of the unions’ leaders last week.