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With pandemic pay premium still not flowing, health-care unions stage quiet sticker protest

CUPE, Unifor and SEIU also wonder why thousands of their members are excluded

Members of three Ontario hospital worker unions wonder why the pandemic pay bump promised by the government has yet to flow and why thousands of their members are excluded from receiving it.

On June 17, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Unifor and members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare staged quiet demonstrations at their workplaces, sporting stickers on their chests reading, “It takes a team to care” and sharing photos of themselves wearing the stickers on social media.

Between them, the unions represent some 75,000 Ontario hospital workers.

Back in April, Premier Doug Ford announced some 375,000 workers at around 2,000 employers would receive a bonus, in effect, to recognize the sacrifices essential workers have been making during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bonus includes a $4 hourly raise for the next four months, plus a monthly bonus of $250 for those workers putting in more than 100 hours a month.

On Monday, the province said this money would be flowing soon, but provided no timeline for when that would happen.

Members of the three unions wore the stickers and shared photos of themselves to pressure the province to follow through on its promise.

But that’s not the only reason the union members staged the job action.

There are about 20,000 people spread across the three unions who are not eligible to receive the bonus, and that doesn’t sit well with the union members, said Martin Coursol, a CUPE national representative currently based in Sudbury.

“This is dividing the workforce — it’s a two-tier system where some classifications of workers are not as important as others,” Coursol said.

Who are the workers that are excluded? Many of them are clerical workers like medical secretaries, operating room booking clerks and clerk typists who do interact with the public on a daily basis.

“And a lot of them are the first point of contact for people entering the hospital,” Coursol said.

The unions say this exclusion is wrong and should be corrected.