SUDBURY, ON – Hospital workers in Sudbury took a visible stand today, rallying outside Health Sciences North (HSN), frustrated with the “lack of respect” they are getting from both their hospital employer and the provincial government in contract negotiations.
Provincial bargaining for nearly 70,000 registered practical nurses, personal support workers, clerical, cleaning, maintenance, dietary and other staff who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and SEIU Healthcare began in June, following nearly a year and half of challenging and risk laden pandemic work. 23,617 Ontario health care workers have contracted COVID19 at work and 24 have died.
The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) the umbrella group that bargains on behalf of Ontario hospitals in central negotiations has proposed takeaways which would eviscerate the employment protection and mobility rights of the workforce.
Recently Ontario Premier Doug Ford again called heath care workers “unsung heroes”. But hospital workers face a cut to real wages under provincial legislation that restricts them to a wage increase less than 1/3 of the rate of inflation. The province has also severely limited hospital workers’ ability to negotiate much-needed increases to mental health supports like post-traumatic stress counselling.
At a time when hospital workers are exhausted following months of pandemic response and Ontario is experiencing a severe shortage of health care workers – including registered practical nurses and personal support workers – the hospitals are seeking many concessions in bargaining.
“Hospital workers have held the line for patients and the people of Sudbury. They sacrificed to do that, and they were proud and grateful to be able to help. They did not expect a reward. But a cut to their modest real wages and the gutting of their contracts is not acceptable. We expect the provincial government to walk back from its 1% wage cap, as the British government has just done, in acknowledgement of the pandemic effort. And we expect the hospitals to pull their concessions and to address the priorities of the workforce, particularly in the areas of pandemic protection and violence,” says Michael Hurley, president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE).
Health care workers in the National Health Service in the UK were also restricted to 1% increases by their government. But this week the British government announced that salaries would be increased by 3%, in recognition of the contribution of health care staff.
55 rallies across the province are scheduled through the end of August. A major rally is planned for September 10 in Toronto. Hospital workers are rallying tomorrow (July 30) at the Perth/Smiths Falls District Hospital.
Bargaining between OCHU/CUPE, SEIU Healthcare and the OHA will resume in early September.
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