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A new CCPA Saskatchewan report by University of Winnipeg economists concludes that privatizing provincial laundry services may garner some short-term savings but at long-term costs.
In 2013, Saskatchewan's government announced that it would be replacing five publicly owned hospital laundries. Sometime this year, those regional services will be replaced with a private centralized laundry services operated by Alberta-based K-Bro Linen, which will establish a single plant in Regina to serve the entire province.
The CCPA report finds that this privatization deal will result in a $14 to $42 million decrease in the income of the residents of Saskatchewan over the next ten years.
Privatization is a rising trend for cash-strapped governments across Canada -- especially in the health-care sector. The CCPA report argues that privatization of public services often costs more than anticipated while yielding lower quality services and little to no efficiency gains.
The report states:
Saskatchewan's publicly owned hospital laundry and linen service is in a general state of disrepair because of the neglect of the province in investing and maintaining the existing facilities. The decision to privatize services is not in the best interest of the residents of Saskatchewan. Any short-term benefits accruing to 3sHealth must be weighed against the costs borne in the form of lower employment and income in the province.
The report finds that laundry plant closure in Prince Albert alone will result in 74 jobs lost, causing a decline in labour income of $2.5 million in the region, and a decline in regional GDP of $3.7 million.
"It's a decent paying job, it's Monday to Friday, and there are a lot of couples that work here, so they are both going to lose their jobs," said CUPE Local 3736 president Anita Labossiere, whose union represents 74 workers at North Sask Laundry in Prince Albert, one of five locations that will soon be closed.
"People need to really understand the impact that its going to have on the community and the province. It's over 300 people that are going to be losing jobs across the province, it's not just us," said Labossiere, who explained that she and the other workers at North Sask have been holding their breath since the privatization announcement was made in 2013.
"It's very stressful for people because they haven't given us an end-date," said Laboissier, "So you're on edge everyday. Nobody can plan their lives without an end-date. Nobody can apply for school, they can't make plans."
As far as Laboissier knows, her workplace, along with laundries in Regina, Weyburn, Yorkton and Moose Jaw will be closed on or before December 31, 2015.
Ella Bedard is rabble.ca's labour intern. She has written about labour issues for Dominion.ca and the Halifax Media Co-op and is the co-producer of the radio documentary The Amelie: Canadian Refugee Policy and the Story of the 1987 Boat People.
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