In the News May 11
Ontario Election 2022
Respect Us, Protect Us, Pay Us Hospital Workers Say
Hospital workers have been fighting Bill 124 under the slogans Respect Us, Protect Us, Pay Us. Bill 124 blocks them from negotiating wage increases and improvements in benefits, such as sick leave and counseling. These demands have become increasingly important during the pandemic when resources have been stretched to the limit. The legislation caps compensation increases at one per cent per year for three years which means significant actual wage decreases when inflation is taken into account.
Three unions — CUPE, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare, and Unifor – representing 95,000 registered practical nurses, personal support workers, cleaners, administrative staff and others on the front lines at hospitals across Ontario, are currently in contract negotiations with the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA).
The unions also announced the launch of television ads directed towards the OHA. They point out that there is an urgent need to stabilize patient care and staffing by increasing the number of full-time jobs and restricting the use and high cost of private agencies and gig-work. The unions are also demanding that all hospitals adopt the precautionary principle approach to better protect staff and patients from COVID-19 variants.
“Surveys tell us that nearly one-third of registered practical nurses (RPNs) are considering leaving the profession. Poor working conditions are exacerbating the health human resource crisis and as hospitals hemorrhage staff, people will continue to wait longer for critical care,” an April 11 press release says. The release also reports that violence against hospital staff has increased significantly, with 86 per cent of hospital staff reporting that they have experienced verbal harassment, 65 per cent that they have experienced physical assault and 25 per cent have experienced sexual assault. A good deal of this is because of the deterioration of services. Instead of fixing the problem by making sure hospitals are adequately staffed and the staff are not overworked, patients get criminalized, further compounding the problems which exist since many of them are just plain sick and need treatment.
The steady relative decrease of wages and deterioration of working conditions are two of the major factors contributing to the shortage of workers with all its consequences for workers and patients. One of the key demands is for improved mental and psychological support. After two traumatizing years of pandemic work, 93 per cent of staff report mental and physical exhaustion, 91 per cent report higher levels of stress, and 82 per cent report back pain as a result of their hospital work.
The state of affairs in Ontario’s hospitals is a serious indictment of the privatization of health care and the pay-the-rich schemes governments adopt to favour big pharma and private health care providers.
All Out to Support the Demands of Hospital Workers!
Ontario Political Forum, posted May 11, 2022.