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Ford government nurses’ retention pay missteps and PSW wage increases mishandling compound discontent among health sector’s front-lines asking for Bill 124 to be scrapped

PETERBOROUGH, Ontario--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- The Doug Ford government’s mishandling of PSW wage increases and nursing pay issues while suppressing the right to bargain wages was the focus of a protest at the office of MPP Dave Smith, today by Peterborough and Lindsay area front-line hospital and long-term care staff.

There is consensus across health care’s front-line that Bill 124, the Ford government’s wage cap legislation is at the root of the problem. It prevents PSWs, nurses and all other occupations from bargaining the true value of their work, during a time of labour scarcity and as inflation soars. The PCs have opted to give haphazard wage bumps for some, while excluding the majority. “This,” says local RPN Maggie Jewell, CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE) area vice-president, “is fueling demoralization and unhappiness. Many health care workers are leaving their jobs at hospitals and long-term homes, all together.”

Jewell was among those Peterborough and Lindsay area hospital and long-term care workers at the rally asking MPP Smith “to support health care staff” and scrap the Bill 124 wage cap law.

During a gruelling pandemic, “the Ford government has increased PSW wages by a permanent flat rate, rather than by setting a new floor as Quebec has done, which means PSWs will still leave for better paying work. Nurses get a one time, retention bonus which won’t be pensionable or reflected on the base rates. As a result, the wage difference between some nurses and PSWs is so little it will fuel a nursing exodus. And everyone gets a cut to their real wages as inflation - 6.1% in February- skyrockets and their wages are held to 1%. It is stunning mismanagement,” says OCHU president Michael Hurley.

CUPE in Ontario represents nearly 90,000 health care workers. 90% of RPNs and personal support workers (PSWs) working in the health system are women. 65% of the people who clean and disinfect our hospitals and 75% of respiratory therapists are women. Almost all the ward clerks and other administrative workers are female.

Many RPNs and hospital workers generally, see Bill 124 as “sexist and discriminatory legislation. It doesn’t cover any other emergency personnel, like paramedics, police, and fire - which tend to be male dominated. It must go or many more registered practical nurses leave their jobs at hospitals and long-term care homes which are already struggling with staff shortages,” says Sharon Richer, OCHU secretary-treasurer.

Over the next week more protests are planned at PC MPP’s offices across Ontario including in, North Bay, Pickering, Kenora, Stratford, Port Hope, Newmarket, Barrie, and Niagara.

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Source: CUPE

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