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Ottawa, ON …  Attacking the wages of the lowest earners in Ontario’s hospitals may have an emotional appeal to CEO’s self conscious about their own income levels, but it will not fix Ontario’s economy or the ballooning deficit, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) President Michael Hurley said today in response to calls by Champlain LHIN’s CEO Dr. Robert Cushman and Ottawa area hospital administrators for a government imposed wage freeze on hospital workers.

If Dr. Cushman is concerned about high wages, he should look at his fellow CEO’s before he points the finger at hospital cleaners, custodial and clerical staff whom he knows are at the bottom of the income ladder in our hospitals,” OCHU President Michael Hurley said this morning at a news conference in CUPE’s downtown Ottawa headquarters.

When the number of hospital managers earning over $100,000 grew 33% in 2007-08 and 10% in 2008-09, it takes hutzpah to demand a 2% wage cut by the lowest earners in the hospital system,” Mr. Hurley said.

 “Economists have accepted the need for stimulus in getting through recession and that should tell us the last thing we want to is to slash consumer spending,” the OCHU President said.

Hospitals are the largest employers in many economically depressed communities across eastern Ontario. Rolling back wages for 200,000 Ontarians who work in our hospitals will not help Cornwall or Smith’s Falls or Timmins or Fort Erie or Kenora, it will further cut consumer spending in those communities and dampen Ontario’s recovery,” Mr. Hurley suggested.

Dr. Cushman and others may find an emotional appeal in blaming and attacking others who earn far, far less than they do, but most Ontarians remember where the economic crisis began and will reject this misguided and unhelpful approach to a real challenge,” Hurley claims.

Ontario hospitals are the most efficient in Canada, operating at 98% capacity, with the fewest number of staff per bed, fewest beds per 1,000 of the population and the shortest lengths of stay of any province.  The factors that drive up hospital costs are doctors, pharmaceuticals and medical technologies,” Hurley says.

On October 31, 2009 hospital staff, members of CUPE, ratified a 4 year legally binding contract with 65 Ontario hospitals and long term care facilities. The contract provides for 2% increases each year.  Wage increases for non-union workers averaged 2.4 per cent in 2009.

The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) / CUPE represents 25,000 hospital nurses and support and clerical staff at hospitals throughout Ontario.

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For information contact:

Michael Hurley, President, OCHU/CUPE  416-884-0770
Mark Lafrance, OCHU/CUPE    613-889-2600
Chris Watson, CUPE Communications  416-553-9410