Begins: 11 May 2022 @ 11:30 AM
Location: Hamilton, ON
HAMILTON, ON –/COMMUNITYWIRE/– There’s a provincial election on and Ontario voters say the top issue for them is health care. But as a critical staffing crisis continues to plague hospitals with some (including in Hamilton) reporting record job vacancies and high staff COVID-19-related absences, “hospital staff feel the Doug Ford PC’s have turned their backs on them,” says Sharon Richer secretary-treasurer of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE).
Outrage at how the provincial government is disrespecting them by capping their wages (under Bill 124)and the lack of gumption from hospital employers to support them publicly, is sparking renewed protests by nurses, personal support workers, environmental cleaners, clerical, and other essential hospital workers throughout May, including at St. Joseph’s Healthcare this Wednesday, May 11, 2022 – 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Ontario hospital staff have endured among the highest COVID-19 workforce infection and burnout rates in the world. Yet, the Ford PC’s have rewarded Ontario’s predominantly female hospital workforce with Bill 124, which, “has cut their real wages by 10% over the last two years,” says Richer.
With the wage cut on top of failing to provide proper personal protective equipment during the pandemic and the back-breaking workloads that come from working in a hospital system with the fewest staff of any developed economy, “many people are just giving up. Hospital workers are saying ‘enough of the disrespect’. Some others are taking another form of protest, they are leaving their jobs altogether,” adds Richer.
Vacancies in Ontario hospitals are soaring as Bill 124 artificially supresses the wages for hundreds of thousands of women working in health care. Earlier this month media reported that there were 738 job vacancies at Hamilton hospitals.
Ontario-wide data shows that the hospital job vacancy rate has increased from 1.6% at the end of 2015 to 6.3% at the end of 2021. Hospitals and nursing and residential care facilities have over 32,000 job vacancies. Add another 10,350 for ambulatory health care and the total is over 42,000 job vacancies. That is up from about 10,000 at the end of 2015, a four-fold increase.
Over 2020 and 2021, registered nurse vacancies more than doubled and registered practical nurse vacancies more than tripled. Nurse aide and orderly vacancies more than doubled. Other assisting occupations in support of health services saw vacancies more than quadrupled.
Hospital staff are also angry that although their senior hospital administrators can see the detrimental impact the wage cap and other PC compensation policies are having on staff morale and attracting and retaining front-line staff, they’ve shown no interest in wage increases in the period after the bill expires or in improving access to personal protective equipment or protecting staff from rising violence.
“With more than 700 job vacancies at Hamilton hospitals- more than 250 of those at St. Joe’s, the staffing crisis is unfolding right before our eyes. It cannot be ignored during this election. The opposition parties have said if elected they will scrap Bill 124. The PCs must show they value us by scrapping their own hurtful wage cap Bill,” says Kevin Cook an OCHU regional vice-president.
Protests similar to the one at St. Joe’s Hamilton on Wednesday, have already been held in Sudbury, Ottawa, Toronto and Oshawa.
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