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Toronto - Hospital support and clerical workers, among the lowest paid workers in the health care system, will not be used as pawns in a political game between the Liberal provincial government and the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA), say the unions that represent over 50,000 frontline hospital workers.

Today, at a Queens Park media conference, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU Local 1) and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE (OCHU) put the government on notice that hospital workers will actively resist any moves to gut their collective agreements and end successor rights. The unions challenged the Ontario government to release a Hay Group report, leaked to the media, that outlines contracting out the work of nursing and hospital support staff to extract cost efficiencies in our public facilities.

If the government is considering widespread contracting out of hospital services and stripping job security from the collective agreements of hospital workers, they will face fierce resistance. Hospital support and clerical workers who were celebrated as SARS heroes by the Ontario government last year, will not now be pushed into poverty, said OCHU president Michael Hurley.

The unions have asked the Ontario health minister to meet with them on an urgent basis in order to explore alternative areas where hospitals could achieve real cost savings without negatively impacting direct patient care, said Hurley. These alternatives include the OHA bargaining jointly with unions representing hospital support workers and establishing a province-wide benefit plan. These two initiatives would save $200 million.

The Ontario Liberals are not the protectors of public health care that they ran an election on, and the leaked report exposes their true agenda, said Marcelle Goldenberg, SEIU Local 1 executive vice-president. It is not the salaries of hospital support workers that are driving up hospital costs, said Goldenberg. She pointed out that since 1993, over 12,000 hospital support staff have been eliminated in Ontario. Canadian Institute for Health Information data shows that in the last six years, expenditures on support services have declined from 22.1 per cent of total hospital expenditure to 16.9 per cent.

In the same period, the cost of drugs and supplies sold to hospitals by for-profit companies has increased from 18 per cent to 24 per cent of hospital expenditures. The costs of drugs to the province of Ontario are up 150 per cent in a seven-year period. Over those same years, hospital support staff salaries grew by only 12.5 per cent.

Working in a hospital is dangerous and requires a high level of courage, dedication and skill. Our members came through for the people of Ontario during the SARS crisis. We are asking the people of Ontario to help us now in the face of the Ontario governments plan to attack hospital staff, said Goldenberg.

OCHU is the umbrella group that represents 32,000 Ontario nursing and hospital support workers who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). SEIU Local 1 represents 15,000 hospital support workers and nurses province-wide.


For more information, please contact:

Michael Hurley President, OCHU/CUPE (416) 884-0770
Marcelle Goldenberg Executive Vice-president, SEIU Local 1 (905) 660-1800 X317
Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications (416) 578-8774
John Van Beek SEIU Communications (905) 660-1800 X319