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Toronto After months of difficult negotiations, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE) has reached a breakthrough settlement with the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) on behalf of tens of thousands of hospital employees who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

The voluntary agreement is the first major settlement in this round of negotiations in the Ontario hospital sector. The tentative contract covers more than 22,000 hospital workers directly whose hospital employers participate in central bargaining, and impacts on the contract negotiations of another 10,000 hospital staff province-wide.

Highlights from the tentative settlement include: a 3 per cent wage increase in the first year, improvements to medical, bereavement, education and compassionate leave, and significant gains to job security protections.

As the Ontario government moves to realign health services, hospital workers, who are vital in providing quality patient care, deserve a measure of job stability and protection during what may be a period of unprecedented change and instability. Strengthening job security clauses and enhancing bumping rights was a key focus for CUPE in this round of bargaining, says Michael Hurley, the president of OCHU/CUPE.

CUPE represents more than 32,000 hospital service employees in Ontario, including registered practical nurses, cleaners, nutrition aides, clerical support and maintenance workers. The tentative settlement, with key gains to job security, further strengthens existing CUPE collective agreement protections, which set the standard in Ontarios hospital sector.

Voting to ratify the new contract will be complete by March 31, 2005.

For more information, please contact:

Michael Hurley, president OCHU/CUPE, (416) 884-0770;

Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications, (416) 578-8774.