Support and service staff employed by Newfoundland and Labrador Health Services and represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) have gathered over 1,400 signatures on a petition demanding that the Furey government meet to discuss ongoing recruitment and retention issues.

“The simple truth is that we don’t get paid well and people are leaving to find better pay elsewhere,” said Melissa Osmond, a housekeeper working at Corner Brook Long Term Care Centre. “People can’t support themselves on so little, and, as the sole provider of two special needs children, I’m even more aware of that. I shouldn’t have to make decisions between groceries and paying my bills while working full-time, but I am.” Last year, the Furey government met with several health care unions and offered one time wage increases for select classifications based on increases bargained by the Registered Nurses Union (RNU) and Allied Health.

These increases were a first step in better acknowledging the impact these workers have on our health care system and the rapidly increasing cost of living. Health care support and service workers were not invited to these discussions. “Our health care doesn’t run without all its workers, and that includes support and service staff,” said Rowena Bourgeois, an accounting clerk working at Bay St. George Long Term Care Centre. “A hospital can’t help patients if the floors aren’t clean, if the linens aren’t washed, and if the medical records aren’t up to date. We’re just as important as nurses and doctors, but for some reason, we’ve been left out of these discussions.”

On June 20th and 21st, CUPE members throughout Newfoundland and Labrador presented the completed petitions to every MHA and the Premier, demanding that their elected officials take their concerns seriously and confirm a meeting before the deadline today. “As a LPN, I’ve seen firsthand how pivotal support and service staff are to the running of our hospitals and health care facilities,” said CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador President Sherry Hillier. “It’s time that the Furey government sits down with us for a frank discussion about the recruitment and retention of support and service workers, starting with proper compensation.”