On Tuesday, Arbitrator Kaplan’s Bill 124 reopener award recognized the extent to which Doug Ford’s Bill 124 unconstitutionally suppressed union member wages – particularly given the combined effects of the pandemic, the healthcare worker recruitment and retention crisis and inflation – and determined that these factors must be reflected in compensation increases for OCHU/CUPE and SEIU Healthcare members.

However, the arbitration award only partially recognizes these factors, in providing for salary increases of 3.75% in 2022 and 2.5% in 2023, together with a two-dollar boost to the predominant RPN hourly rate and long-deserved increases to shift and weekend premiums, call-back, vision and massage coverage. The wage increases are in addition to 1% increases for 2021 and 2022 awarded by another arbitrator under Bill 124.

Unfortunately, these increases still fall well short of what is needed to keep up with inflation and to respond to the serious shortage of healthcare workers in Ontario hospitals. Given the economic growth, we would have liked to see increases that surpassed inflation, or at minimum offset it.

OCHU/CUPE and SEIU Healthcare members are committed to ensuring that these critical issues are addressed in the upcoming round of negotiations and urge both the participating hospitals and Doug Ford’s Ontario government to come to the bargaining table with a renewed commitment to providing the compensation necessary to address ongoing inflation and the unprecedented staffing crisis in Ontario’s hospitals.

Recent negotiated settlements and arbitrated outcomes acknowledge the impact of Bill 124, realizing what the OHA themselves forecasted as “…consequences that could negatively impact hospital employees and create financial and operational disruption that would overshadow the impact of any short-term cost avoidance on compensation increases”. Accordingly, we call on the OHA to stand with us in demanding that the Ontario government abandon its costly appeal of Bill 124, which they continue to pursue.