On Tuesday, the provincial government introduced legislation suspending many workplace protections for health care staff for a period of at least one year. The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/Canadian Union of Public Employees is in the process of securing a mandate from its hospital members to oppose the legislation in a meaningful way.

“Currently, there are just over 120 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario. The state of emergency which existed in March does not exist today in terms of COVID-19 cases,” says Michael Hurley, President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE.

“The Ford government calls its health care workers heroines, but it plans to deny them basic workplace protections, like the right to take vacation or the right to exercise seniority in a layoff indefinitely. We very much regret that we must turn our full attention from patient care to defending ourselves from this attack,” Hurley says.

The legislation also makes the assembly of citizens unlawful.

The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE will spend the next five days consulting with local leaders and with members about actions to have this legislation pulled. If approved, the escalating campaign will begin immediately.

Fourteen Ontario health care staff have died and over 6,100 have contracted the coronavirus. At just over 17 per cent of all cases, Ontario has one of the highest health care worker infection rates in the world.

“Tens of thousands of hospitals and long-term care staff worked diligently throughout the pandemic. Now the Ontario government is attacking them with legislation that removes their workplace rights on a permanent basis. This is unacceptable and an affront to this largely female workforce which has sacrificed so much,” says Hurley.

Despite their valiant contribution during the COVID-19 crisis, health care staff were not consulted about the legislation, news of which appeared in the media before the government reached out to their unions.

“We are very optimistic that the people of Ontario will strongly encourage the government to reconsider this unprovoked attack on a workforce that deserves so much better from them,” says Hurley.