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OPSEU president says AMHS layoffs targeting workers without university degrees

Warren Smokey Thomas came to Kingston to try to urge the supervisor of Addiction Mental Health Services to reconsider laying off up to 65 employees.
Warren Smokey Thomas came to Kingston to try to urge the supervisor of Addiction Mental Health Services to reconsider laying off up to 65 employees. Global Kingston

OPSEU president Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas is calling on Kingston’s Addiction and Mental Health Services’ (AMHS) temporary supervisor to reconsider laying off over 40 employees.

In December of last year, the South East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) named Karen Berti as the agency’s new supervisor after two of its top executives left their posts. The LHIN then unseated the board of directors so Berti could take full control of the organization.

READ MORE: Provincial agency takes over Kingston Addiction and Mental Health Services due to mismanagement

In 2017, the LHIN launched an investigation of Addiction and Mental Health Services, which found that the organization had “significant clinical, financial, leadership and accountability concerns.”

After months of inspecting the inner workings of the health organization, Berti introduced a “transformation plan,” announced on March 26, that would include the layoffs of 39 full-time and three part-time positions, the majority of which are not health-care related. The agency will then hire 30 new full-time positions, with a focus on attracting health-care professionals.

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But Thomas says that number could look something more like 65.

WATCH: Front line staff attest to client neglect due to staffing cuts at AMHS-KFLA

Front line staff attest to client neglect due to staffing cuts at AMHS-KFLA
Front line staff attest to client neglect due to staffing cuts at AMHS-KFLA

For Thomas, the sticking point seems to be educational experience. The supervisor said they’re gearing new positions towards accredited health-care professionals, which would require university degrees.

“College degrees are not acceptable. Well that’s an insult to every community college graduate out there,” said Thomas. “No recognition of seniority, experience or the credentials they have.”

Over 20 employees have already been laid off and more layoffs are coming.

Thomas suggested the worker’s without university degrees employed at AMHS be grandfathered in, and then the organization could make it a requirement for new hires to hold a university degree.

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READ MORE: Kingston’s Addiction and Mental Health Services restructuring to include more layoffs

He said the workers without degrees have years of experience, which is at least equivalent to new hires with “a piece of paper or a couple letters behind their name.”

“The workers she wants to lay off have spent years getting to know their clients and figuring out the best way to support them.”

Thomas says a letter is on its way to the Minister of Health to ask them to intervene with the layoffs, and that the union will continue to fight to save jobs at AMHS.