Canadian Blood Services workers rallying for new contract ‘want respect’

May 24, 2023 | Canadian News, News

BRAMPTON — Canadian Blood Services (CBS) workers rallied outside the production site in Canada to fight for better work-life balance and the anti-privatization of plasma collection.

Around 100 CBS workers, who are considered essential workers and can’t strike, picketed for two hours on May 24, 2023, chanting, “enough is enough.”

Alberto Alvaro, president of Local 200 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said the the rally to expedite contract negotiations that began in 2021 and to prevent the privatization of Canada’s plasma supply.

The plant on Parkshore Drive, in the Finch and Steeles Avenue area, handles about 40 per cent of Canada’s blood supply.

“We’re paying for blood supply, and we’re looking to put a stop to that,” he said. “Mostly we’re here collectively for contract negotiations, agreements procedures, precarious work life, access to full-time positions, and respect,” Alvaro said.

While plasma supply is being privatized, CBS workers have been left in the dark about this issue.

“We didn’t really learn it,” Alvaro said. “When the information came out, it was really spotty. Our employers did not reach out to us.

“It puts everyone at risk, job security at risk, blood supply in Canada at risk, it’s something we want to stop,” he said.

Alvaro said the workers’ wages are low compared to the rise in inflation.

“I understand that CBS can fall very quickly if we let something like this continue,” he said. “We want to be valued, and at the same time protect our blood supply.”

The rally in part was to push management to ratchet up negotiations in what has been a slow pace of contract talks, said Rishee Persad, vice-president of Local 200.

“The main reason is our contract is still being negotiated, is it’s two years in,” he said. “There seems to be no sense of urgency on the employers’ part to try to solve this.”

He said the privatization of plasma can make donors not want to come to Canadian clinics.

Canadian Blood Services workers

Canadian Blood Services workers, members of Local 200 of OPSEU, stand in front of the production building in Brampton on May 24, 2023. They rallied in hopes of sparking contract talks that have stalled after two years of negotiation. Photo credit: Sajel Mistry

“What’s next? What is next? Are they going to privatize, make it all private, like blood now, like what? The plasma belongs to Canadian Blood Services and the people of Canada,” Persad said.

Alvaro said the slow pace “is something indicative” of how Blood Services does business.

“We’re looking to expedite that process, there’s no reason why these things should take the amount of time that they currently do,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to change that in the future.”

Canadian Blood Services said in a May 25 email response to a request for comment that the collective agreements expired in 2021 and 2022.

“To date, we have not been able to achieve new agreements with the union. In the meantime, we are complying with current agreements,” the statement said.

Canadian Blood Services also said it is not privatizing or “changing how we operate.” The organization signed a deal last year with Spanish pharmaceutical company Grifols to boost plasma supplies in Canada.

Alvaro said the privatization of blood could be an added risk if things don’t change.

“I think it’s a possibility. What I know is these things tend to happen. This is just the sticking point and that’s where we are right now,” he said.

Alvaro said he hopes that today’s demonstration can send the message that CBS workers are not going to stand for this much longer.

“This is how we’re getting our message across. We’re not happy, and we won’t stand for it, and enough is enough,” he said. “We’ve been far too complacent and now we have the opportunity to come together and ensure our blood supply is safe.

“There is so much power when people come together,” Alvaro said.