Health care workers in Ontario urge those running for Liberal leadership to move away from failed policies attacking workers’ rights
Busloads of health care workers from across Ontario rallied in Toronto today at the Ministry of Finance (southeast corner Grosvenor and Queen’s Park Crescent). They were joined by health sector staff and other public sector workers from across Ontario focused on defending impartial interest arbitration and free collective bargaining for over 250,000 essential health care workers.
Health sector arbitration is working well and should not be attacked.The government’s intrusion into a stable, neutral process like arbitration, “threatens these efforts and the public services Ontarians rely on,” says Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
A review of private-sector and public-sector collective agreements for the last 20 years found that compensation increases in the health sector are slightly below those of other sectors. Furthermore, health sector arbitrated settlements are modest, keep pace with inflation, and are less generous than for other essential service workers.
“Liberal leadership candidates are being urged to focus on economic recovery and job creation, rather than on public sector restraint policies that hinge ontaking away workers’ rights and changing arbitration so it is no longer independent of government involvement,” says Hurley.
To date, only a few of the leadership candidates have indicated that they would restore collective bargaining rights for education sector workers taken away under Bill 115 and not pursue similar legislation for other public sector workers.
“Regrettably, none of the candidates have said that, if they become premier, they won’t pursue changes to the arbitration system. If rebranding is truly a goal for the Liberals, then stepping back from some of these ideas that have been disastrous for them would set them on a better course,” says Hurley.
For their part, the opposition Tories say they are pursuing radical changes to arbitration that would remove all neutrality from the process. “Inherently, this is an issue of fairness for health care workers who have been provided with a fair arbitration process because, under law, they do not have the right to strike,” says Hurley.
OCHU is the hospital division of CUPE in Ontario which represents over 75,000 essential health sector staff at long-term care homes and hospitals across the province.
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