Closing of Victoria Order of Nurses in six provinces leaves thousands of people without care.
Ottawa (27 Nov. 2015) — Workers with the Victoria Order of Nurses (VON) in St. John’s and Corner Brook, who are members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE/NUPGE), were shocked when they received recorded phone messages on November 25 telling them not to come to work. These workers were later informed, by teleconference call, that the VON was shutting its doors in Newfoundland and Labrador and that their services were no longer required.
But it wasn't just in Newfoundland and Labrador. All VON offices in every province except Ontario and Nova Scotia are shutting down. The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) represents VON workers in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Ontario.
“We are still trying to get the details from the employer, but needless to say, finding out about losing your job by voicemail and a teleconference call is cold and callous," said NAPE President Jerry Earle. "Some of these workers had almost 20 years of service.”
According to media reports, VON filed for protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.
VON shutdown part of a larger problem: privatization
"While the way workers and clients found out about the closure was unacceptable, it is part of a larger problem,"says James Clancy, NUPGE National President. "The privatization of services has lowered standards and quality of care in many provinces as agencies are forced to compete against each other."
Large for-profit corporations are more willing to compromise on service quality and that allows them to underbid non-profits. As Sandra Azocar with Friends of Medicare in Alberta put it: “It’s clear that instead of a race to the top for quality care, we have a race to the bottom to slash costs which squeezes out not-for-profit groups like VON."
Clients left scrambling for affordable care, workers unemployed
Along with the impact on quality, a consistent criticism of privatization is the disruption it causes to services people rely on. What is happening with the VON is just the most recent example. People completely dependent on services are left scrambling to find alternatives and hundreds of workers are losing their jobs just before Christmas.
“So now we are trying to figure out how these people are going to get the severance and benefits they are owed. In the end, they may have to go to court to get the monies owed,” said Earle. “Once again, workers in this province may be at the end of the line for the monies they are owed due to part of a company filing for bankruptcy. We need better protections for workers when these situations occur.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE