Ornge Announces New Oshawa Base

July 11, 2011, 3:47 PM EST

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Critical care medical transportation firm ORNGE has announced that it will open a helicopter base in Oshawa, Ontario, marking an important success for the public and ORNGE workers, represented by the CAW.

In October 2010, ORNGE announced that its Toronto Island Billy Bishop Airport base would be moved to Hamilton International Airport, refusing to consider other options. Following the announcement, the union called for the decision to be reversed. Failing this, the Toronto Pearson International Airport, Downsview or Oshawa airports would all be better candidates for a new base than Hamilton.

The decision to move to Hamilton would have meant that that an important access point to the large highly specialized hospitals downtown Toronto would be significantly changed. The CAW said that the move of the base to Hamilton could add large amounts of time to the wait for critical care due to heavy traffic.

The union and membership started a fight-back campaign to oppose this move due to the detrimental effect it could have on patient care to residents of southern Ontario.

The campaign included lobbying of MPPs, outreach to media agencies, and residents of the areas served by ORNGE. The company informed the union in early April that an eastern base site would open. At that time, the two options for the base were Peterborough and Oshawa airports, with the company showing a preference for Peterborough.

The union believed that Oshawa was the best choice. Leadership and members lobbied all three levels of government - from Oshawa Mayor John Henry, Oshawa-Whitby MPP and Provincial Conservative Health Critic Christine Elliott to Federal Finance Minister and Oshawa-Whitby MP Jim Flaherty. The union toured the facility sites at Oshawa airport and offered a letter of support to add to the Oshawa Airport Authority's proposal.

CAW ORNGE unit chairperson Chuck Telky expressed his approval of the decision and efforts that lead to it. "I would like to thank all the members, past president of Local 2002 Leslie Dias, and Bob Chernecki, Assistant to the National President, who stood up in solidarity for what we believe to be the best interest of the residents of the province," said Telky. "This is an example of when we stand united for a cause and fight back; anything can be achieved."

CAW Local 2002 represents 200 ORNGE workers.

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