Health Care Workers Continue to Speak Out

Ontario-Wide Protest by Health Care Workers for Protective Equipment and Pandemic Pay for All Frontline Workers

Frontline health workers organized by the Canadian Union of Public Employees' Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE) in hospitals across Ontario staged protests on May 14 to demand personal protective equipment (PPE) and equal treatment for all health providers when it comes to receiving the four dollar per hour "pandemic pay" bonus. The Ontario government deliberately excluded more than half of Ontario's frontline health workers from eligibility for pandemic pay.

Prior to May 14, CUPE health workers staged actions within the institutions demanding adequate PPE but this was the first time workers organized pickets and marches out front of hospitals and along city streets. Actions were held in Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Lindsay, Milton, Mississauga, Oakville, Oshawa, Ottawa, Peterborough, Sudbury and elsewhere.

Michael Hurley, President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, explained just how unreasonable it is for the provincial government to exclude many health care workers from receiving the pay bonus. He said they all work as a team, "a team fights COVID-19 and every one of them is at risk" he said.

"All hospital workers are subject, under emergency order, to be redeployed anywhere within the hospital to fight COVID-19 and subject to redeployment to long-term care homes that have the worst COVID-19 outbreaks. Now on top of the anxiety of working with COVID-19 in a climate of very high health care worker infection we have the problem of a morale crisis caused by the government turning its back on the important contribution of the many on the team fighting this virus."

"The list of those excluded from pandemic pay includes half the hospital workforce," Hurley said. Cooks for example are considered essential, but the dietary aides, who deliver meals to COVID-19 patients, are not. Maintenance staff who support the negative pressure rooms are not included, nor are the staff who maintain the air systems or who ensure the building is functional."

"No clerical or administrative staff are included. The ward clerk on the COVID-19 unit or in the ER or the clerical staff in the screening centres or the registration clerks or medical records staff are excluded. Also not included are staff sterilizing ventilators or other medical equipment, those distributing masks and other vital equipment, pharmacy, and lab staff and almost all the technologists."

Tens of thousands of hospital staff are not included in recognition pay. The provincial government has in fact arbitrarily imposed unequal pay by recognizing only some of those engaged in frontline work in health institutions against the pandemic, while excluding others. It's completely arbitrary. "Hospitals only run well on teamwork when all staff are doing their part." CUPE said. "Everyone should be included in the pandemic pay."

OCHU/CUPE has also been calling on the government to immediately deal with the personal protective equipment shortages Ontario is experiencing. Infections among health care workers are very high, particularly in long-term care. At eight deaths and 3,600 health care worker infections, Ontario has one of the highest rates of death and infection in the world. CUPE has consistently called on the province to order General Motors to immediately begin production of the N95 mask in Oshawa, as they are doing in Warren, Michigan.

All health care workers should have access to N95 masks when they are in proximity to a person who may have COVID-19. Health care workers are doing everything in their power to serve the well-being of the public. "All they ask is that all possible steps be taken to keep them, and the people they care for, safe" CUPE said.





Huron Perth; Tri-Towns



(Photos: OCHU/CUPE)

This article was published in

Number 35 - May 19, 2020

Article Link:
Health Care Workers Continue to Speak Out: Ontario-Wide Protest by Health Care Workers for Protective Equipment and Pandemic Pay for All Frontline Workers


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