The head of a union representing some of the workers at the Middlesex-London Health Unit alleges long-standing workplace culture problems under Dr. Chris Mackie, who is currently on leave as an officer health doctor.
CUPE Local 101 President Steve Holland said that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were constant concerns about Dr. Mackie’s leadership.
“People have not been happy with him. They don’t feel like he really listens to them or doesn’t even take their stuff seriously, ”Holland told Global News.
“There has always been fear of retaliation for presenting something. A lot of members will tell us things, but they won’t go through with things that would make it quite difficult for the union to fight on their behalf if no one wants to come forward. “
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London News Today reported Thursday that Mackie has been the subject of several workplace conduct complaints.. Global News has not independently verified these claims.
Global News has also reached out to Mackie for comment, but has yet to receive a response as of press time. London News Today quoted Mackie as saying that he believed in the mission of the health unit and conducted himself “in the best way possible to support the organization and its people.”
Holland could not confirm the veracity of the alleged complaints against Mackie, but said he was “not surprised” and anticipated that “probably more people will come forward.”
The health unit confirmed that Mackie was on leave on November 15 in a short one-sentence statement naming Dr. Alex Summers as the interim health physician. Holland told Global News that Summers “appears to have been working very hard” and hopes “for this to change.”
When asked for comment at the time Mackie’s license was confirmed, the MLHU declined to identify the nature of his absence, to say whether Mackie would be paid during the leave, or even to provide the official date of the leave. start of the license.
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At Thursday’s COVID-19 press conference, Summers began his remarks by stating that he wanted to acknowledge “some recent news articles about the work environment at the Middlesex-London Health Unit.”
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In the roughly four minutes he spoke about workplace conditions, he didn’t mention Mackie.
Summers emphasized that “it has been a challenging time” for public health, which has gone from a Monday-Friday 9-5 workplace to a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week operation.
“Our response is only possible thanks to our people, our staff. As a team and as an organization, we have strived to support them through these challenging years, recognizing the enormous amount of work and stress they have faced, ”said Summers.
Summers said the health unit has been holding weekly meetings with union partners and has invested in additional mental health and wellness supports for staff.
“The Middlesex-London Health Unit is a workplace that cares about others and cares about our community. This is a workplace committed to kindness, committed to understanding. “
When contacted for comment, Board President and City Councilor Maureen Cassidy told Global News that “the MLHU Board of Health is aligned with the MLHU leadership team and staff on the issue of culture in the workplace. “
In his comments Thursday, Summers noted that the board of health “continues to support all the efforts that we make and continues to provide resources and support to our staff.”
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Since the start of the pandemic, Holland says its members have been working long overtime hours, with some members working 12 hours a day. He said the union took their concerns to human resources, raising the issue with the health unit leadership team.
“And the response (from the leadership team) was: ‘We are in a pandemic. We will not change. You know, they’re going to have to keep doing it, ‘”Holland argued.
“That doesn’t help. If people burn out, people will stop working potentially due to health reasons and that doesn’t help anyone, ”Holland said.
In his comments Thursday, Summers said MLHU has nearly tripled its workforce since the pandemic began and continues to recruit additional staff.
“We have also made sure that people have been able to take their breaks and, with rare exceptions, staff have been able to use their vacation time this year,” he said.
Holland also alleged that he met with Mackie only once in his more than four years as president of Local 101 and that Mackie told him to deal with human resource leaders in the future.
“Since then, he hasn’t really spoken to me and we don’t have conversations, which is strange because I have conversations with the city manager on a regular basis.”
Global News reached out to the health unit to respond to these allegations, but referred to Summers’ comments at Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing.
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