While their pandemic efforts have been generously praised by Doug Ford’s Ontario government, front-line hospital workers are asking for Bill 124, the wage cap legislation that devalues them and is fueling an exodus of staff from health care, to be repealed.
Yesterday, front-line hospital staff – including several registered practical nurses from Ottawa - made a special delivery for Ontario Premier Doug Ford: thousands of postcards signed by individual hospital workers urging him to scrap his government’s 1 per cent wage cap under Bill 124.
Ontario’s three Opposition leaders were on hand when the postcards written by front-line registered practical nurses, personal support workers, hospital cleaners and other critical health care staff were hand-delivered to the steps of the Ontario Legislature.
Ontario inflation hit 5.7 per cent in January 2022 while health care workers’ wages remain capped at 1 per cent. As negotiations remain stalled for over 70,000 Ontario hospital workers, Bill 124 prevents them from bargaining much-needed mental health supports. From January 14, 2022, to February 16, 2022, health worker COVID-19 infections have grown from 28,336 to 34,662, a huge increase that CUPE and SEIU Healthcare say is associated with the rationing of personal protective equipment and forcing workers sick with Covid-19 to work during their isolation period.
CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE) president Michael Hurley, says “health care workers should not have to beg for protective equipment or a wage increase. We ask the government to reverse its decision to impose real cuts to wages through Bill 124 and if the government plans to offer retention bonuses, we ask that it offer them to all health care workers. Everyone: interns and residents, nurses, cleaners, maintenance staff, clerical employees, paramedical employees, PSWs and support staff have worked hard and sacrificed much - and there are shortages in almost all occupations.”
An invite to meet the front-line staff and accept the postcard mail delivery was extended to all the party leaders. However, only the leaders of the NDP, Liberals and the Green Party agreed to attend.
“This recent increase in workers contracting COVID-19 is putting an even greater strain on the health human resource crisis we’ve been urging the Ford government to address for months,” said SEIU Healthcare President Sharleen Stewart. “Instead of temporary wage enhancements and one-time bonuses for select workers, which is creating division in our healthcare facilities, the Ontario government must repeal Bill 124 to give all health care workers access to wages that reflect their hard work and sacrifice and the mental health supports they desperately need after two years on the frontlines of COVID-19.”