Unionized hospital workers in Sudbury are holding a rally at Health Sciences North (HSN) Thursday, along with other hospital workers at locations across Ontario, to express dissatisfaction with hospital management and Ontario’s Conservative government.
The hospital staff, members of CUPE Local 1623, said they will be staging a socially distanced rally from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Paris Street entrance to Health Sciences North. The workers are expected to include registered practical nurses, personal support workers, environmental cleaners, and other unionized front line staff who will carry signs expressing their concerns.
"They are among nearly 70,000 hospital workers across Ontario currently negotiating a new provincial contract. But after working the past 18 months at a hectic pace in a pandemic, these workers feel devalued by both the province and their hospital employers," said a news release from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
Also supporting the rally will be the SEIU Healthcare union, said the release.
At the Sudbury rally on Thursday, hospital workers will ask for respect and better pandemic protections — safety measures they say will also benefit patients. In addition to getting Bill 124 repealed, they want the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA), the umbrella group for hospital employers, to make several concessions, including language around seniority and retirement packages, off the table.
A year ago in June, local health-care workers rallied on the Bridge of Nations against the bill, which they said unfairly strips away certain bargaining rights.
The unions said the workers deserve to have a fair contract, but they are instead being “rewarded” by a wage cut under a provincial policy (Bill 124) that restricts them to a wage increase of less than one third of the rate of inflation. Bill 124 also impacts hospital workers’ ability to negotiate increases to mental health supports like psychotherapy and post-traumatic stress counselling.
Earlier this week, said the release, hospital workers rallied at hospitals throughout Ontario’s northwest. Many similar rally actions are scheduled across the province through the end of August. CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE) and SEIU Healthcare began bargaining with the OHA last month and are expected to return to the table in early September.