OTTAWA, ON – Frustrated with the “lack of respect” they are getting from both the provincial government and their hospital employers in contract negotiations, registered practical nurses, personal support workers, environmental cleaners and other staff from Ottawa area hospitals are protesting Monday August 16, 2021, at 11:30 a.m. They will rally at Bruyère – Hôpital Saint-Vincent Hospital, 60 Cambridge St N, Ottawa and ask that their wages and working conditions not be cut, and for better pandemic protections – safety measures, which will also benefit patients.
Nearly 70,000 Ontario hospital workers who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and SEIU Healthcare, are currently negotiating a new provincial contract. But after working the past 18 months at a hectic pace in a pandemic, these workers feel devalued and betrayed by both the province and their hospital employers.
The hospital workers deserve a fair contract CUPE says but, they are instead, being “rewarded” by a wage cut under a provincial policy (Bill 124) that restricts them to a wage increase less than 1/3 of the rate of inflation. Bill 124 also impacts hospital workers’ ability to negotiate much-needed increases to mental health supports like psychotherapy and post-traumatic stress counselling.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford calls care workers pandemic 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.
The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA), the umbrella group that bargains on behalf of Ontario hospitals in central negotiations with CUPE and SEIU, is seeking many takeaways which would eviscerate workplace rights.
“Hospital workers have held the line for patients and the people of Ottawa. 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) who is speaking at Monday’s rally in Ottawa.
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.
In addition to getting Bill 124 repealed, hospital workers are asking the OHA to take several concessions, including language around seniority and retirement packages, off the table.
In July and early August, workers rallied at hospitals throughout Ontario’s northwest, northeast, east and the Hamilton/GTA area. More than 50 protest including the one in Ottawa on Monday, are planned this summer.
OCHU/CUPE and SEIU Healthcare began bargaining with the OHA in June and will return to the table in early September.
Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications 416-559-9300 email@example.com