Paul Barry (front row, middle) with OCHU executive members
CUPE and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions. OCHU, are mourning the loss of Paul Barry, who served as OCHU’s first president upon its founding in 1982.

Barry began his career as a paramedic, based out of the Ajax-Pickering Hospital, where he became president of his CUPE local.  

During the 1981 round of provincial hospital bargaining Barry served as a representative for the Greater Toronto Area on CUPE’s central bargaining committee. A staunch believer in workers’ right to strike, Barry became a key leader in a 10-day illegal walkout by 14,000 hospital workers when CUPE defied an order by the Ontario Labour Relations Board and the Ontario Superior Court to stop the strike and return to work.

OCHU was founded following the 1981 walkout with Barry serving as the inaugural president from 1982 to 1987. During his tenure as president, Barry was an outstanding advocate for wage equality for women and a progressive voice within CUPE and the broader labour movement. Following his tenure as OCHU President Barry worked as CUPE staff until his retirement.

According to current OCHU President Michael Hurley, “Paul Barry epitomized the best aspects of the fearlessness, the passion and the hunger for equality of the labour movement in the 1980’s. He was a born leader, inspirational and charismatic and willing to defy authority to advance the interests of his members. We followed him into an illegal strike and we followed him into a period of consolidating the respect we earned then into great gains for our members. He was a great leader.”