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Prison Labor Sparks Lawsuit in Canada

A Quebec laundry operator is suing Ministry of Health authorities after losing a no-bid contract to prison labor that will cost the company $750,000 in yearly revenues, while triggering at least a dozen layoffs at his plant about half an hour northeast of Montreal.

“The awarding of the contract was ordered by a directive of the ministry without going through the usual process, and they refuse to give us an explanation,” said Pierre Ferron, president of La Buanderie Blanchelle, Repentigny, in a report in local media. “We are very shocked by this decision, which is absolutely not justified.”

Ferron added that the contract transfer will cause “irreparable harm” to his company through unfair competition from government-subsidized prison labor.

His lawsuit argues that the Superior Court should invalidate the ministry’s decision to give the work to prison labor, “for free.” Instead, Ferron’s suit is asking the court to extend the company’s current contract through June 2018, pending a decision in the litigation.

To keep his business viable, Ferron has pursued contracts with healthcare providers in Vermont. He said he finds it easier to get contracts in the United States than in his home province of Quebec. “If I had not been able to get contracts in the United States, I would not be in business anymore,” said Ferron, who previously has complained about plans for “insourcing” of healthcare laundry work in Quebec from his company to a new $20 million government facility that’s under construction. That project poses an existential threat to this 40-year-old company and the 260 jobs it provides at two locations in Quebec, he said. Click here and here for details on both the lawsuit and the new government laundry.