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Ford government under fire for treatment of 'health-care heroes'

Last Updated May 18, 2021 at 2:05 pm EDT

The OHA, which represents Ontario’s hospitals and professional associations including nurses, physicians, and respiratory therapists, issued a statement saying it’s on the Ford government to put place strong public health measures in place to further spread the curve of COVID-19. H. Shaw

The province’s four largest health care unions are accusing the Ford government of not valuing frontline workers.

Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) President Vicki McKenna, SEIU Healthcare President Sharleen Stewart, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE) President Michael Hurley and Unifor Assistant to the National President Katha Fortier are holding a virtual news conference Tuesday morning to discuss the serious impact on those struggling to care for patients during the pandemic.

Union leaders are calling for the immediate repeal of Bill 124, which they call “wage-suppression legislation.”

“Ontario health-care staff have bravely stepped up to provide care during the pandemic, at great personal cost,” the unions said in joint statement. “As inflation begins to soar, their incomes are being cut in real terms, while police, fire, and other male-dominated essential workforces are exempt.”


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Collectively, the four unions represent more than 200,000 nurses, personal support workers, environmental/infection control services, administrative, professional and other health-care staff in hospitals, long-term care and community settings.

Bill 124, passed by the Ford government in 2019, is aimed at the broader public sector, including hospitals and long-term care homes, among many others, that do not carry on activities for the purpose of gain or profit.

The legislation imposes a series of three-year “moderation periods” that include salary and compensation caps.

During moderation periods, increases to salaries and compensation are capped at 1 percent each year, subject to certain exceptions.

Earlier this year, ONA launched legal action against the Ford government after it refused to exempt front-line workers from Bill 124.

According to a recent Oraclepoll of 2,600 registered practical nurses that belong to CUPE across the province, more than half of those surveyed said they were coping “poorly” or “extremely poorly” at work over the past year of the pandemic.

Just over 80 per cent reported that their workload had “increased a lot”, and 86 per cent said they believe the potential for medical errors has increased over the past 12 months.

Over 90 per cent are worried about bringing COVID-19 home to their families, and 70 per cent reported facing increased violence from patients and their families.

It has all led 30 per cent of the workers surveyed to consider leaving the profession, the poll shows.

A study of over 550 registered practical nurses conducted by the Service Employees International Union reflects similar levels of burn out.

With files from The Canadian Press