CUPE and SEIU hospital workers walked together on noon-hour information pickets in front of more than 100 Ontario hospitals Tuesday, October 6.
“Members came out in force to support our campaign for a negotiated settlement,” said Michael Hurley, president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.
“Tuesday’s picket is the first in a series of province-wide measures to let the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) know that our members won’t settle for anything less than a fair, negotiated settlement.”
The joint action follows an announcement that CUPE hospital workers in Ontario will bargain jointly with SEIU when talks take place on October 22.
Traditionally, the OHA has tried to force one or other of the unions into arbitration, playing both unions against each other. The joint bargaining strategy was adopted to prevent OHA from resorting to such tactics this time round.
“Our members are understandably frustrated,” says Hurley. “They’ve carried the hospitals through restructuring, downsizing and cost-cutting brought on by the Harris government. The thanks they’ve gotten for the sacrifices they’ve made has been a slap in the face.”
The OHA has indicated that it will be pushing for the right to contract out more jobs and slash wages and benefits by 18 per cent at the bargaining table.
The two unions are determined to negotiate an agreement with the OHA, avoiding an arbitrated settlement at all costs.
“Our members lost faith in the arbitration process when the Minister of Labour started interfering in the selection process,” said Hurley. “We will be asking our members to give us a strong strike mandate in the event that talks break down.”
CUPE and SEIU together represent 50,000 hospital workers in Ontario.