More than 50 people lined the Bridge of Nations Friday morning to protest the Ford Progressive Conservatives’ Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, otherwise known as Bill 124.
Nurses and their supporters held signs as vehicles passed by honking their horns in support. The nurses are asking for the right to bargain, which they say was stripped away with the passing of Bill 124.
They also claim Bill 124 perpetuates systemic gender discrimination and violates the right to gender equality, as it targets a perpetually female-dominated workforce, while other more male-dominated professionals such as policing and firefighting are exempt under the Bill..
“If we’re being called heroes in this pandemic, the least we deserve is the right to bargain in our contracts,” said Sandra, who organized the rally (the woman asked that her last name not be used).
“We can’t work to rule, we can’t strike as essential workers, so we are all here on our own free time. We are lending a voice to the opposition of this Bill.”
Bill 124 also limits compensation increases on benefits, pensions and salaries to one per cent for a three-year period, below the rate of inflation, and that includes premiums and benefits, which ultimately brings it to less than one per cent, Sandra said.
On hand for the rally was Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas, the NDP’s health critic. She said she was surprised to get a call from the group, because voicing their concerns in this fashion is out of the ordinary for them.
“This isn’t the union organizing this rally, it’s the nurses,” Gélinas said. “Nurses do what they do because they want to help others, and they seldomly speak up for themselves. I will do my best to support them.”
Ford needs to listen to the nurses, she said.
“He may have wanted to balance the budget on the backs of nurses, teachers and PSWs, and while it’s never the right time to do that, it’s especially important right now through a pandemic,” she said.
“Those nurses have been working hard over the last 100 days, their jobs are very different and really tough. They fear for themselves, they fear for their children and their families, and the people they care for are really sick, and they want to do their best to save them all.”
Nurses are going through a tough time, and all they are asking for is the right to bargain she said.
“That’s not asking for much, so Mr. Ford, let them do that, especially since over the 100 days, he’s stood up and thanked them, called them heroes. He has a chance to get behind those words now by letting them bargain.”