TORONTO, June 15, 2012 /CNW/ - Yesterday, a majority of Members of Provincial Parliament on the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario voted to strike a number of schedules from the massive omnibus provincial budget bill.
"Contrary to what the Premier is saying, amending the budget is exactly what MPPs were elected to do," said Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN, President of the Ontario Nurses' Association.
"When it was seeking re-election last fall, the governing party did not mention most of the significant changes contained within the 69 schedules that make up the 351-page omnibus budget."
"This minority government does not have a mandate to gut Ontario's fair and functioning arbitration system or to remove control from the legislature for all decision-making about whether public services, like health care, are provided by private, profit-skimming companies instead of the efficient public sector."
Echoing the calls from a growing chorus of worker, employer, and citizen groups that are opposed to taking power away from the legislature and meddling with the province's fair arbitration system, Ontario nurses are urging MPPs from all parties to completely strike Schedules 28 and 30 from Bill 55, the 2012 omnibus budget bill, when the standing committee resumes its work next week.
"Nurses are encouraged by the actions of a majority of MPPs on the finance committee on Thursday," said Haslam-Stroud.
"In fairness to nurses and other health care workers, the committee's decision to delete Schedule 1 should be extended to Schedule 30."
Schedule 1 proposed unnecessary changes that attacked ambulance workers' right to a fair contract negotiation process, changes that were similar to those proposed in Schedule 30 which would gut the Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act (HLDAA).
The arbitration system is a fair alternative to labour disruptions in the public sector. It is the trade off for taking away the democratic right of some workers, including most nurses, to strike.
"As I told MPPs during my presentation to the standing committee on Tuesday, Schedule 30 is a blatant attack on the health care sector workforce. If adopted, it will put the retention and recruitment of nurse staffing at risk, meaning reduced access to quality health care for our patients."
"Adopting Schedule 30 would be a mistake because it is almost certain to result in lengthy litigation and wasted health care dollars for changes that are not needed."
Nurses are also concerned about Schedule 28, the proposed Government Services and Service Providers Act, 2012.
"Schedule 28 erodes the authority of our elected, local representatives to democratically decide, together, how important services like health care, education, electricity, and official identification documents are delivered," said Haslam-Stroud.
"As health care professionals, we are trained to use an evidence-based approached. If there's a plan to change the way public services are provided, it should be presented, debated, and decided on in a public forum."
"Schedule 28 must be deleted entirely because it would change the rules so there is less public scrutiny and it could lead to a large scale sell-off of public services, including hospitals—actions for which this government did not a seek a mandate from Ontario voters."
For more information about the scope and consequences of Schedule 28, read the legal opinion of Steven Shrybman. Mr. Shrybman, a partner at Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP, is an expert in international trade and public interest law and his assessment was prepared for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario division.
For more information about Schedule 30, read ONA's submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs regarding Bill 55 and see the ONA.org website.
ONA is the union representing 59,000 registered nurses and allied health professions, and more than 13,000 nursing student affiliates providing care in Ontario hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, industry and clinics.
For further information:
Ontario Nurses' Association
Ken Marciniec 416-803-6066, [email protected];
Ruth Featherstone 416-964-1979 ext.2267, [email protected].