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Thousands of Ontario hospital workers began voting on their new contract this week, as union leaders warned of disruption and change ahead.

Steve Palmer, president of CUPE 1097 at St. Catharines Hôtel-Dieu hospital encouraged his members to vote for the deal.

This collective agreement will improve wages and job security for our members, he said. It will provide some stability as we head into local hospital restructuring.

Highlights include a 3 per cent wage increase in the first year, 2.5 per cent in the second year, improvements to medical, bereavement, education and compassionate leave, and significant gains in job security protection.

Ontario Council of Hospital Unions president Michael Hurley said strengthening job security and enhancing bumping rights were union priorities for this round.

As the Ontario government moves to realign health services, hospital and long-term care workers deserve a measure of job stability and protection during what may be a period of unprecedented change and instability, Hurley said