Amidst an alarming rise in job vacancies, unprecedented ER closures, and thousands of patients dying waiting on surgical wait-lists, three major unions representing about 70,000 workers in Ontario’s hospital sector signed a Solidarity Pact to Save Our Public Hospitals “from further austerity and privatization” at Queen’s Park today.
SEIU Healthcare, CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE), and Unifor unveiled a 10-point Solidarity Pact premised on defending patient care, halting privatization, and taking militant action to ensure contract improvements for an embattled workforce in the upcoming round of bargaining.
The unions said that their resolve to defend further bleeding in the hospital sector is rooted in an unprecedented crisis caused by the failure of Ford government’s policies including the exodus of staff in the wake of Bil 124.
The hospital sector has seen a 19 per cent rise in vacancies over the past year with about 37,000 positions currently unfulfilled. Staffing shortages have prompted hundreds of ER closures since 2022, particularly in rural areas and smaller communities, posing risk to patients seeking care.
The Solidary Pact was signed after attempts to have the OHA reverse its position restricting our unions from collectively bargaining jointly, a decision clearly made to divide the unions and weaken outcomes for hospital workers. Letters were sent by the unions to the previous and current Treasury Board President asking for intervention, which in part read:
“By preventing joint bargaining, the OHA will cost taxpayers more money by triplicating bargaining time, mediation, and arbitration expenses. This will also result in disparate contracts for workers performing similar duties at hospitals across the province. At a time when we are all working to solve the retention and recruitment crisis, the OHA’s position will undermine these stabilization efforts.”
No response or support was ever provided by Minister Sarkaria or Minister Mulroney.
The unions reject employer and government efforts to undermine healthcare workers ahead of bargaining and are making a renewed commitment to fight back against efforts to divide them.
The full text of the Solidarity Pact to Save Our Hospitals reads as follows:
The bargaining of hospital workers in 2023-24 will be very challenging, with a hospital association committed to pursuing austerity and concessions working in partnership with a provincial government hostile to public services and unions.
We intend to achieve significant economic improvements for our members in this round of bargaining and to address the issues of workload and the quality of patient care in a meaningful way.
We will fight any concession proposal that hurts workers and patients.
Our unions commit to:
1. Defend the patients who depend on the care we provide. ¬
2. Fight against privatization and the Ford government’s dangerous agenda to advance for-profit care.
3. Solidarity of the 70,000 hospital workers in our unions to fight to save our hospitals. ¬
4. Press the government to have the OHA reconsider its decision to reject bargaining with our three unions at a common table. Should that e ort not succeed, we pledge to co-ordinate our bargaining as if we were at a common table and to attend one another’s bargaining.
5. Identify key priorities for this round of bargaining and campaign together vigorously on those priorities.
6. Push the hospitals to provide safe, secure, and supported jobs. ¬
7. Take militant action, if necessary, to win gains for hospital workers and to protect our collective agreements from concessions. ¬
8. Dedicate significant resources to encourage and organize our respective memberships to attend in numbers any rallies, demonstrations, or picket lines related to collective bargaining. ¬
9. Stand with one another militantly against any legislation or government intervention that threatens to further undermine our bargaining rights. ¬
10. To accomplish this, we commit to regular meetings of our senior leadership and staff and to a joint session of our leaders at which this agreement will be signed.
“Ontario’s health care crisis is untenable. We have thousands of patients dying on surgical wait-lists, we have children suffering profound consequences of delayed spinal surgeries, we are seeing unprecedented ER closures due to extreme staffing shortages brought on by unsustainable workloads. And this government is expediently using this crisis to justify privatization and satisfy its donors. Our unions won’t let that happen – we will defend our public health care system by any means necessary including militant action and mass mobilization of our members.” – Michael Hurley, President, OCHU/CUPE
“As Unifor, SEIU, and CUPE unite today, our solidarity transcends mere words—it’s an unwavering pledge. A pledge to every patient anxiously waiting for care, to every health care professional going beyond their limits, and to every single Ontarian that a better, equitable and accessible health care system in Ontario is possible.” – Kelly-Anne Orr, Assistant to the National President, Unifor
“Hospital staff are physically and emotionally burnt-out, yet hospital executives are going to push for cruel concessions. Hospital staff are falling behind in rent and mortgage payments, yet hospital executives are going to push for real wage cuts. Hospital staff are coming together to defend access to patient care, yet hospital executives are going to implement Doug Ford’s austerity agenda that defunds our hospitals so wealthy investors can open for-profit clinics. Our three unions are drawing a line in the sand and showing solidarity to each other and to the people on the frontline of care. People deserve better, so together we’re going to fight for better.” – Sarah Correia, Hospital Sector Director, SEIU Healthcare