HAMILTON – Who says labour songs are dead? The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has produced a music video with recording artists Teresa Healy and Tom Juravich to highlight the exodus of Ontario’s home care professionals from an unstable work environment.
The song, “What Will You Do When I’m Gone?" was written by Healy and Juravich for a 2008 rally in Hamilton following news that the Victorian Order of Nurses and St. Joseph’s Home Care were dropped from a competition to provide visiting nursing services in the city. Both agencies had close to a century of history in Hamilton.
As a result of the rally, a new moratorium was begun and the Hamilton competition cancelled.
Last spring Health Minister Deb Matthews said competitive bidding would return to home care despite the history of protest in many Ontario communities.
The union has argued that competitive bidding drives costs up and workers out as contracts change hands and jobs are lost. Patients in turn lose their long-time care providers, and waits increase as the sector is increasingly abandoned by health professionals who are frustrated by the unstable work environment.
“Unlike the sale of a business, when a home care contract changes hands, workers lose their jobs and are often forced to seek employment with new provider agencies at reduced wages and benefits,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the 130,000-member union. “They also start again with minimum vacation and no union representation.”
The video is being distributed to media outlets this week and on-line.
OPSEU has produced a web site to host the video which includes a “making of” documentary, background information, a free download of the song, links to the artists’ sites and a form where patients, families and workers can leave their own stories behind.