RICHMOND HILL, ON, July 22, 2013 /CNW/ - As negotiations between 34 of Ontario's hospitals and SEIU Healthcare,
Canada's largest healthcare union, are set to begin, a new era of
bargaining is about to unfold. At a conference last week, SEIU
Healthcare members voted to no longer participate in a traditional
central bargaining process with the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA)
and to immediately move to undertake negotiations with each hospital
"Today marks an historic day for hospital labour relations as our
members have decided to move away from the central bargaining process
with the OHA that has stopped working," said Sharleen Stewart,
President, SEIU Healthcare. "The only people central bargaining was
working for were hospital CEOs, who were putting their own agendas
first and ignoring the need for a province-wide recruitment and
retention strategy for the frontline staff who actually make up the
heart of healthcare."
Since 1974 hospitals and unions have used a central bargaining process
to determine working conditions, wages and benefits for hospital
workers such as registered practical nurses, clerical, maintenance and
support staff such as hospitality, laundry, and dietary. For a time,
this process was useful in standardizing many practices and conditions,
and driving improvements in quality care.
But two problems have arisen.
One, the OHA is asleep at the wheel. The association has been leaderless
and rudderless at crucial moments for the hospital sector, and has
cycled through four different chiefs in the last 18 months. It is
currently without a permanent chief executive after the abrupt
departure of association head Pat Armstrong in June.
Secondly, amid turmoil at the top, the OHA has seemed unable to corral
powerful hospital CEOs, who often bring out-sized egos and personal
agendas to the table.
In the absence of consistent leadership, these CEOs have been unable to
reach consensus on key policy questions or recognize that various
hospitals operate in very different ways and have different needs. For
example, Ontario's largest teaching hospital, Sunnybrook, will have
very different concerns from a small rural hospital in northern
"The OHA does not seem to be the organization it once was. As hospital
CEOs have padded their paycheques and expanded their empires, they have
increasingly lost touch with the frontline. There is a growing
leadership vacuum in the hospital sector," said Stewart.
In the past ten years no agreement has been finalized with the OHA
without recourse to an Arbitration Board, resulting in costly delays
and decisions that have been unsatisfactory for both parties. As a
result, SEIU Healthcare has sent registered letters to 34 hospitals,
informing them that labour negotiations will now take place on a
workplace by workplace basis.
"Our members will now be taking on more responsibility for negotiating
their own working conditions on a hospital by hospital basis,"
continued Stewart. "This will be an opportunity to empower our members
and democratize decision-making in our union. The decentralized process
will help members resolve workplace challenges on a case by case basis,
while giving them a renewed sense of ownership over their new
"The OHA has consistently failed to address the needs of frontline
hospital staff or put forward a positive agenda for change, blaming
tight hospital budgets," said Stewart. "This at a time when hospital
CEOs and executives were routinely paid annual salaries of hundreds of
thousands of taxpayer dollars, while never mind receiving tens of
thousands in questionable perks such as paid memberships to gentlemen's
clubs, Jenny Craig weight loss programs and cosmetic surgery."
"This waste must come to an end. Hospitals aren't broke. The healthcare
accountability system is. And if we want to make the most impact,
investments must be moved from the bottom line to the frontline."
About SEIU Healthcare:
SEIU Healthcare, Canada's largest healthcare union, represents more than
55,000 healthcare and community services workers across Ontario. The
union's members work in hospitals, home care, nursing and retirement
homes and community services throughout the province. SEIU Healthcare
has a strong track record of achieving fair wages and benefits and safe
working conditions for healthcare workers, supporting the training and
development needs of its members, and strengthening standards in the
management and delivery of patient and client care.
SOURCE: SEIU Healthcare
For further information:
For more information or to arrange an interview contact:
Media Relations Specialist, SEIU Healthcare
Tel: 905-695-1767 x 3123 Cell: 416-809-0699