Striking workers holding picket signs

Frontline public health workers put the mayors of Belleville and Quinte West, the board of health, and Premier Doug Ford on notice: ‘Just like Ontarians who were shortchanged with the Greenbelt, we will not back down’

CUPE public health workers at Hastings Prince Edward Public Health met with the health unit’s management back at the bargaining table again this afternoon. Unfortunately, there was no movement to meet workers’ reasonable, necessary, and affordable proposals on wages and benefits.

As of 12:01 a.m. Friday, September 22, CUPE 3314 public health workers will be on strike for wages that come a bit closer to meeting the rising cost of living due to inflation and to secure sufficient funding for public health to protect our communities from transmissible diseases (e.g. COVID-19, flu, STDs, rabies), foodborne illnesses (e.g. E. coli), dirty water, tobacco smoke and cancer, etc.

These 70 public health workers join 50 Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) members – registered nurses, registered practical nurses, and public health nurses – who have already withdrawn their labour and are marking their fifth full week on their picket lines.

“Public health workers and nurses do life-saving work for the residents of the counties,” said Kim Craig, public health inspector and president of CUPE 3314.

“My coworkers and I are putting mayors Neil Ellis and Jim Harrison, plus premier Doug Ford on notice that we will not allow corners to be cut on the vital public safety services and care we provide to residents.”

Quick Facts:

  • CUPE public health workers have been without a contract since January 1, 2023.
  • The frontline CUPE public health workers going on strike Friday include: Public health inspectors, a Smoke-Free Ontario (SFO) enforcement officer, Certified dental assistants, Registered dental hygienists, Family home visitor for the healthy babies/healthy children program, Registered dieticians, Health promoters who inform the public about flu vaccination clinics, the rabies program, etc., a Foundational standards specialist who tracks vital statistics, a Communications coordinator, a Building maintenance operator, Information technology staff, and Program assistants who provide professional clerical support.
  • In their first year of office after taking power in 2018, Doug Ford Conservatives significantly cut money for public health units across the province. Despite delays to the cuts due to public outcry and then some temporary additional investment in public health earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic, less-than-inflation funding cuts and government-urged mergers of public health units are continuing today.
  • In the last fiscal year alone (2022-23), the Ford Conservatives spent $1.7 billion less than planned on health care, according to Ontario’s independent Financial Accountability Office (FAO). This is money that could and should be spent on protecting Ontarians – including Belleville, Hastings, Prince Edward, and Quinte West residents if the government provided enough funding for Hastings Prince Edward Public Health unit to keep up with the rising cost of inflation.