TORONTO, ON – What seems like a deliberate workforce policy of exploiting racialized women as cheap labour by the University Health Network (UHN) is being roundly criticized by many Toronto/GTA labour and community groups advocating for economic justice for new immigrants.
UHN is avoiding the direct employment of patient rehabilitation care staff at its Hillcrest site who earn wages far below other hospital personal support workers and nurses. The hospital has also left part-time clerical without a first contract, for several years. Both are “inexcusable” practices seen as a growing blemish on the reputation of UHN, the largest hospital system in the country, said the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and Toronto & York Region Labour Council at a noontime rally on Toronto’s University Ave., hospital-row.
“When I look at these two groups of workers, the part-time clerical staff at UHN and the contract employees at Hillcrest, I see the biggest hospital in North America, wealthy and privileged exploiting women and racialized workers and refusing to pay them the same salary it pays its own staff. They are treated like cheap labour. That despite them battling COVID-19 and providing skilled compassionate care,” Andria Babbington the new president of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council.
At the Hillcrest Reactivation Centre, UHN has contracted out what until recently have been direct hospital patient care supports, to a home care company that pays PSWs and registered practical nurses (RPNs) sub-par wages. These workers and several hundred part-time clericals are paid as much as $7.00 less an hour than people doing the same work at UHN.
“That a hospital with the stature of UHN would engage in labour practices that exploit a racialized workforce, is inexcusable and shames UHN, says Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE), secretary-treasurer, Sharon Richer. Both the part-time clerical employees of the University Health Network and the people working at the Hillcrest hospital site of UHN are almost all women and most are racialized. These workers are paid as much as $15,000 a year less than other employees of at UHN hospitals who do the same work.”
The practice of outsourcing hospital patient care to home care providers is a relatively new idea roundly criticized by many public health care advocates, who argue that in addition to avoiding direct employment of care staff like the PSWs and registered practical nurses at UHN-Hillcrest, it is a backdoor privatization of hospital care.
“UHN can get personal support workers to do the same work for $7.00 less an hour than it pays PSWs working at the General or the Western hospitals,” says CBTU president Yolanda MacLean. “And, instead of the sick plan provided to UHN employees, full-time staff at Hillcrest get only three paid sick days a year. No one can live on $16.50 an hour in Toronto supporting families as these workers are doing. The refusal to pay part-time clerical staff the same wages as full-time staff doing the same work, is incomprehensible and unacceptable. A world leading hospital cannot have labour policies based on exploitation and privatization of hospital care.”
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