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On October 5th Ontario’s three big hospital unions announced the signing of a “ten-point solidarity pact” at Queens park. The unions resolved to combat further austerity and privatization of Ontario's healthcare system. SEIU Healthcare, CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE), and Unifor represent around 70,000 workers in Ontario’s hospital sector.
Kelly-Anne Orr, Assistant to the National President of Unifor said the pact is "a pledge to every patient anxiously waiting for care, to every health care professional going beyond their limits, and to every single Ontarian that a better, equitable and accessible health care system in Ontario is possible".
The pact states the necessity of collaboration between the three healthcare unions at the bargaining table and picket lines. They hope to put their strength together to mobilize their membership in numbers for the bargaining period of 2023-2024. The unions also calls for militancy in the face of "an unprecedented crisis caused by the failure of Ford government’s policies including the exodus of staff in the wake of Bill 124".
Bill 124 capped wage increases for public sector workers at 1% per year over a three year period. Another government attack on healthcare workers included the refusal of the Ontario Hospital Association to recognize joint collective bargaining between the unions; "a decision clearly made to divide the unions and weaken outcomes for hospital workers".
Currently, there are 37,000 healthcare position vacancies in Ontario - a 19% rise over the last year. Short-staffing resulted in rolling ER closures that severely impacted accessibility to services in rural communities.
The dire state of Ontario's healthcare system has been years in the making. The legacy of under-funding and budget cuts under the Wynne Liberals was proudly continued by the Ford Tories. This has created a situation where "Ontario’s health care crisis is untenable" according to Michael Hurley, OCHU-CUPE president.
He adds :" we have thousands of patients dying on surgical wait-lists, we have children suffering profound consequences of delayed spinal surgeries, we are seeing unprecedented ER closures due to extreme staffing shortages brought on by unsustainable workloads. And this government is expediently using this crisis to justify privatization and satisfy its donors".
From the unions, the ten-point solidarity pact commits to:
- Defend the patients who depend on the care we provide.
- Fight against privatization and the Ford government’s dangerous agenda to advance for-profit care.
- Solidarity of the 70,000 hospital workers in our unions to fight to save our hospitals.
- Press the government to have the OHA reconsider its decision to reject bargaining with our three unions at a common table. Should that e‑ort not succeed, we pledge to co-ordinate our bargaining as if we were at a common table and to attend one another’s bargaining.
- Identify key priorities for this round of bargaining and campaign together vigorously on those priorities.
- Push the hospitals to provide safe, secure, and supported jobs.
- Take militant action, if necessary, to win gains for hospital workers and to protect our collective agreements from concessions.
- Dedicate significant resources to encourage and organize our respective memberships to attend in numbers any rallies, demonstrations, or picket lines related to collective bargaining.
- Stand with one another militantly against any legislation or government intervention that threatens to further undermine our bargaining rights.
- To accomplish this, we commit to regular meetings of our senior leadership and staff and to a joint session of our leaders at which this agreement will be signed.