Hospital unions to consult members on Ontario workplace reforms

'We very much regret that we must turn our full attention from patient care to defending ourselves from this attack'

Hospital unions to consult members on Ontario workplace reforms

Union leaders from Ontario’s healthcare sector are consulting with their members regarding the province’s plans to suspend a number of workplace protections for at least a year.

The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions-Canadian Union of Public Employees are hoping to oppose legislation introduced by the Ford government, which they believe will largely impact women on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle.

Read more: Ontario introduces legislation to safeguard jobs amid pandemic

“The Ford government calls its healthcare workers heroines but it plans to deny them basic workplace protections, like the right to take vacation or the right to exercise seniority in a layoff indefinitely,” said Michael Hurley, president of OCHU-CUPE.

“We very much regret that we must turn our full attention from patient care to defending ourselves from this attack,” he said.

The new legislation also prohibits workers from assembling, the group said. Union leaders, however, will discuss with hospital members their next steps “to have this legislation pulled”.

Hurley believes the state of emergency back in March has waned, at least in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases still being monitored across the province. At present, there are only about 120-plus Ontarians hospitalized with the disease.

Read more: Pandemic pay: Ontario raises frontliners' hourly wage

But as the smoke clears, many in the healthcare sector are beginning to see the impact of the pandemic on the health and safety of their workers. Ontario reportedly has one of the world’s highest infection rates among its healthcare workers, at 17% of all cases. More than 6,100 staff members have been infected with COVID-19 and at least 14 have died from the disease.

“Tens of thousands of hospitals and long-term care staff worked diligently throughout the pandemic,” Hurley said.

“Now the Ontario government is attacking them with legislation that removes their workplace rights on a permanent basis. This is unacceptable and an affront to this largely female workforce which has sacrificed so much,” he said.

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