Reconsider attack on public sector workers' civil rights, hospital workers urge Ontario Liberals
TORONTO, Oct. 3, 2012 /CNW/ - Hospital workers are asking Ontario
Liberals to reconsider draft legislation unveiled last week, that if
passed ends access to an independent arbitration process, gives
ministers extraordinary powers to impose contracts and attacks
fundamental civil liberties for more than 250,000 health care workers
who already enjoy restricted rights.
In place for more than four decades, interest arbitration replaces the right to strike or lockout in the health care sector. Arbitration offers dispute resolution without labour instability, largely because both employers and workers see the system as balanced and fair, and arbitrators as independent from government influence.
"Under cover of wage freeze legislation, this government is ending free collective bargaining. The government has crossed a line by its attack on our civil liberties," says Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
Hospital workers, says Hurley, "did not expect to be immune from the impact of the recession and expected the wage freeze." In fact, OCHU's last 4 year contract, expiring in 2013, provided modest wage increases. "We have been bargaining in a restrained way. Removing healthcare workers' civil rights is unnecessary, unfair and unacceptable," says Hurley.
The Ministry of Labour's data show that Ontario's interest arbitration system is working well. A ten-year comparison of arbitrated wage settlements shows that they are virtually identical to those achieved for the same period in right to strike sectors, private and public. In the health sector arbitrated settlements are slightly less generous than in other sectors.
Because arbitrated outcomes mirror negotiated wage and benefits in both
the public and private sectors, the Liberals' own freely negotiated
settlement giving provincial police an 18 per cent wage increase was
replicated for police and then firefighters across the municipal
sector, causing municipalities to attack the arbitration system. " The
problem in the municipal sector is not arbitration, it is the pattern
that arbitrators must replicate, a pattern that the Liberals created",
"Having already lost the right to strike, we will not, and cannot accept the loss of a fair arbitration process to replace that right. We will not accept ministerial authority to tear up agreed-to agreements between employers and hospital workers and to impose contracts. If the Liberals choose to proceed with an attack on our democratic rights, there will be unpredicted consequences," warns Hurley.
Ontario spends $330 less per person than any other province on hospital
care and has the lowest staff to patient ratio and the shortest lengths
of stay of any province. "Ontario has the most efficient and dedicated
healthcare workers in the country. All our members want to do is to do
their jobs, looking after the people of Ontario. By attacking their
rights, the government is threatening the stability and efficiency of
the system," says Hurley.
OCHU/CUPE hospital and long-term care members will soon debate a plan of action to defend their civil liberties and to protect their right to free collective bargaining and a fair, impartial arbitration process. In Ontario CUPE represents over 70,000 nurses, personal support workers, health care aides, paramedics, custodians and administrative staff at hospitals, long-term care facilities and other community health services.
SOURCE: Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (CUPE)For further information:
President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE)