Three of Canada’s largest unions today announced an alliance that kicks off an escalating campaign of membership mobilization to push Ontario hospitals to return to bargaining and treat their staff with respect.

This is the first time the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (OCHU/CUPE), SEIU Healthcare and Unifor have come together to seek a negotiated agreement on behalf of 75,000 nurses, personal support workers, porters, administrative staff and dietary, cleaning and trades staff at 160 public hospitals in Ontario. A bargaining alliance is rare for the unions, which normally negotiate independently with the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) – the hospital employers’ umbrella group.

Unifor, SEIU Healthcare and OCHU/CUPE hospital staff will work together to mobilize against the hospitals’ demands for concessions to win a fair new collective agreement under the campaign banner of “Together for Respect.” Collective actions include a province-wide solidarity day on April 11 and workplace rallies April 18, along with television and social media advertising that begins on April 9.

“Workloads for our members are very difficult and hospital staff are exhausted and stressed. They experience significant violence at work. The hospitals have reached agreements for paramedical staff, under the prevailing public sector pattern, but the hospitals refuse to extend this modest pattern to the nursing, clerical and support staff that we represent, let alone address issues like violence,” said OCHU president Michael Hurley.

Thanks to the hard work of hospital workers, hospitals in this province are the most efficient in Canada despite dangerous overcrowding, chronic understaffing and increasing workplace violence. Data from the Canadian Institute for Healthcare Information shows Ontario hospitals to have the fewest staff to population, the fewest beds, and the most rapid patient turnover in the country.