Although they’ve provided therapies, tests and other key supports to patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of highly skilled hospital staff are still excluded from receiving Ontario’s $4/hour pandemic pay. In addition, none of the premium has flowed to the paycheques of staff the province has tapped as eligible.
Today across Ontario 75,000 hospital staff who are members of CUPE, Unifor and SEIU Healthcare took part in collective action to get the province to fix their bungled pandemic pay rollout.
The big delay in rolling out the pandemic pay funding and excluding staff from receiving the premium is demoralizing and has divided the workforce when they should to be supported most and when all need to see themselves as part of the team fighting COVID-19, say the unions.
Hospital workers left off the pandemic pay list include lab technicians, diagnostic imaging staff, occupational therapy assistants and physiotherapy assistants, as well as many administrative who maintain patients’ medical records.
“We have a morale crisis in hospitals because of the exclusions. Medical radiation techs who x-ray COVID-19 patients and rehab assistants and lab and pharmacy techs who have direct contact with patients everyday or the clerical staff who register them are all front-line. They and all other hospital workers who have been arbitrarily excluded should  receive pandemic pay - everyone is playing a vital role, and everyone can be redeployed into long-term care. Every hospital staff person is at risk of catching the virus and everyone contributes solidly to patient care during this highly stressful time,” says Michael Hurley, president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE).
Premier Doug Ford announced the pay premium for health care workers the last week of April. The Ontario Hospital Association had told the government it supports recognition pay for all hospital workers.
“Premier Ford has bungled pandemic pay almost as badly as his pet license plate project. He reversed course then and he should reverse course now to make sure every hospital worker receives pandemic pay. Frankly, this Conservative government owes an apology to all those essential health care workers they once called heroes for fighting COVID-19, but now exclude from receiving pandemic pay,” says Sharleen Stewart, president, SEIU Healthcare.
Katha Fortier, Assistant to the Unifor National President says Unifor has “insisted that any health care worker who is covered by the emergency orders, be entitled to pandemic pay. It makes no sense that there are hospital workers who have been self-isolating and going weeks without seeing their families in order to protect them, are excluded.”