CUPE members from Ottawa, Winchester, Cornwall and Kingston attended the rally at the WDMH on Tues., Aug. 10. Morin Photo

WINCHESTER – As Ontario prepares for a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, support staff at Ontario hospitals are in the middle of a different battle with the province.

Members of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions of Ontario were at the Winchester District Memorial Hospital on Tues., Aug. 10 to raise awareness about their ongoing negotiations with the province over wages.

Union representatives at the Tuesday afternoon rally, just south of the hospital grounds, focused on the notion that despite all the effort and sacrifice support staff have made during the pandemic and despite the difficulty of obtaining protective gear in some cases, the province is moving backward when it comes to dealing with union staff.

Within the current negotiations are several items the union considers concessions the province would like the union to make.

They are: taking away the right to bump anyone else with less seniority whose job you can do; reducing the right to contract out work; removing access to exit or retirement packages unless you would otherwise be laid off; doubling the time it takes to post a job; remove seniority as a factor in getting jobs; allowing others to do union member work; removing the right for an employee to return to their old job when they post for a new one.

Louis Rodrigues is the vice president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions of CUPE. He attended the rally in Winchester. He said there are 55 other rallies taking place across the province all with the same goal of raising awareness about the position the hospital workers are in.

He said, “The Ford government has passed legislation to limit wage increases for three years to 1 per cent. Inflation is 3.6 per cent. This would mean a 2.6 per cent cut to wages in the first year alone.

Rodrigues addressed the small group at the rally.

He said, “It’s been a tough 21 months for the people of Ontario, and it’s been a tough 21 months for you. I want to say thank you, on behalf of our union

for the extra shifts you have worked and the mandatory overtime; for the weekends away from your families; for the redeployment to retirement homes and long-term care homes in outbreak; for accepting cancelled vacations, last year and again this year; and for many of you isolating from your families to protect them from the risk that you might contract Covid at work. Health care workers have received a lot of deserved praise from the government. They have called you heroes.”

Rodrigues made it clear that the union was opposed to any concessions.

He encouraged the members present at the rally to plan to attend a Sept. 10 rally at Queen’s Park.