Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Health Workers Say New Law to Re-Open Ontario Businesses Cuts into Their Rights

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Health Workers Say New Law to Re-Open Ontario Businesses Cuts into Their Rights

Article excerpt

The union representing thousands of hospital workers in Ontario spoke out in Sudbury Wednesday afternoon against Bill-195, the new law to re-open businesses in the province.

The union said although the new bill is designed to get the business community back to work, it also gives employers the ability to take away many of the hard-earned rights of health-care workers.

Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE), spoke to reporters about the issue at an outdoor press conference held on Paris Street across from Health Sciences North.

Hurley was joined by health worker Sharon Richer, also the OCHU/CUPE secretary-treasurer, who spoke of the difficulties health care workers have faced since the COVID pandemic was declared back in March.

Among their concerns is that Bill-195 will give employers the right to cancel or reassign vacations, to reassign regular day shifts to afternoons or nights, to eliminate your regular job duties and reassign to a new role, to change agreed hours of work, to change or deny leaves-of-absence, and to reassign workers to a different work site.

Hurley said CUPE health care workers stepped up to the plate when the pandemic was first declared and that Bill-195 is a poor response from the province at a time when things are easing up.

He said CUPE workers didn't complain when they and others needed to do their part, but said many front-line health workers are concerned that too many of their job conditions could change in the interest of getting things back to normal.

"They do believe that now that the emergency has come to an end, in the short term anyway, that their basic workplace rights should be restored to them,” said Hurley. “That's the least Ontario could do to say thank you for standing with us.

"And of course in the future if there is a second wave, we're there, we're there again, absolutely we are and we understand there's a need for flexibility to move people around in an emergency health situation.”

He said the current COVID-19 situation in Ontario is easing and said there is no reason to override the rights of workers.

"You know very well that Northern Ontario has — perhaps thanks to geography and perhaps thanks to your health unit — you have been spared a lot of the COVID crisis, and yet all of the long-term care facilities and all the hospitals in Northern Ontario will have the rights of all of their health care workers suspended for the next year, two years, three years," said Hurley. …

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