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Ontario’s hospital workers headed into their second day of mediation on Tuesday November 24 in an effort to negotiate a new contract.

CUPE and the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) are bargaining jointly in contract talks with the Ontario Hospital Association. The parties are currently working with John Mather, a government-appointed mediator.

The hospital workers’ have voted overwhelmingly to take strike action if negotiations fail. However, they are exploring every avenue to avoid a strike, which would be against the current law, and negotiate a settlement.

The unions are asking for a decent wage increase and protection from the contracting-out of their jobs to profit-making private firms.

They are also objecting to a radical revision in how arbitrators are chosen. These arbitrators are responsible for deciding the content of hospital worker contracts and interpreting the contracts. Recently the government decided to replace experienced Labour Ministry arbitrators with retired judges chosen by the government. This has removed the bargaining system’s impartiality.