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Don’t make war on health care workers to deal with a handful of police and fire awards

TORONTO, Feb. 14, 2013 /CNW/ – Hospital and long-term care workers urged Ontario’s Premier today to question the claims of municipalities that misrepresent arbitration outcomes and ignore the fact that the majority of municipal essential service contracts are freely negotiated. 

“Municipalities freely negotiate over 90 per cent of their essential service contracts. Only a small number go to arbitration. The municipalities’ call for changes to arbitration rings hollow and should be resisted by the Premier,” said Michael Hurley president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ontario.

Hurley called on Premier Kathleen Wynne not to make war on health care workers to satisfy a renewed push by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) to bias the arbitration system in favour of employers. 

CUPE represents over 70,000 health care workers who are deemed essential and do not have the right to strike. In place of that right, Ontario’s hundreds of thousands health care workers (85% of whom are women) have access to an independent arbitration process to resolve issues when bargaining reaches an impasse. 

Far from being overly generous, wage settlements in the health care sector – whether freely negotiated or arbitrated – lag freely negotiated wage increases in the public and private sectors.  OCHU and its 30,000 hospital sector members have freely negotiated contracts for the last four rounds of hospital central bargaining and not accessed arbitration. 

“In the health sector both collective bargaining and arbitration are working well. Tampering with either should be avoided,” said Hurley, pointing to the recent turmoil in the education sector caused by provincial interference in collective bargaining. 

With only a small percentage of municipal contract negotiations with police and fire decided at arbitration “we fear that the municipalities are using the province as the heavy in their negotiations with municipal emergency services. We strongly urge the Premier to deal with the municipalities and not undermine the rights of health care workers to independent arbitration,” Hurley said.

For further information:

Michael Hurley President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) 416-884-0770

Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications 416-559-9300