“Our members at this hospital were working very long hours, 14, 15, 16 hours a day,” said Fred Hahn, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees of Ontario. “Then, when they went home, they were so worried and uncertain about infecting their families that they slept in their garages, or in their cars in their laneways.”
He said that everyone experienced stress during the pandemic, but nothing like what hospital staff did.
“The kind of stress that they have lived through, and they are still here,” Hahn said, motioning to the long line of people in blue scrubs getting ice cream at a rally held by CUPE and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) Wednesday (Aug. 11) in front of Brampton Civic Hospital.
The unions are calling for the province to end the one per cent cap on wage increases, to increase supplies of PPE, particularly N95 masks, and walk back proposed changes to seniority policies and retirement packages.
“We don’t have swollen heads,” said Michael Hurley, president of OCHU, explaining that while factoring in inflations rates of around three per cent this year, hospital staff will essentially be living with less.
“You are heroes, you have shown that over again,” said Mark Hancock, national president of CUPE, adding that more than 23,000 health-care workers in Ontario became sick with COVID-19 through the pandemic, and 24 died.
“We are not going to let the Conservative government shortchange these heroes,” Hahn said, as the crowd started chanting “We will win. We will win.”