Ontario healthcare workers want more protection and pay amid COVID-19

Healthcare workers are calling on the provincial government for more respect, more protection and more pay.

Across the province, workers at hospitals, nursing homes, and retirement homes will be wearing stickers, holding signs and in some cases, like at the Hamilton General Hospital, holding physically distant rallies outside.

This is part of a joint campaign from unions representing 175,000 workers serving on the frontline of the pandemic. They say their workforce is predominantly female and timed their action to coincide with International Women’s Day.

“The lack of respect for care work has become painfully evident during COVID-19 but it stems from a longstanding failure to recognize the value of this work simply because women are performing it,” Katha Fortier with Unifor.

“This is evidenced by workers in health and long-term care who are often precariously employed and not paid a living wage. Full-time work with benefits is rarely available and they are forced to work at multiple jobs to simply survive.”

The campaign “Respect Us, Protect Us, Pay Us” is a calling for the government to provide paid sick-leave for COVID-19-related illnesses and paying staff who are awaiting test results or in isolation, provide workers with PPE and make the initial $4 per hour pandemic pay permanent and available to all healthcare workers.

“From the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, health care workers have made great personal and economic sacrifices,” says Sharon Richer with CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.

“Only some have been provided pandemic pay and those who work part-time not given sick pay for isolating if exposed. The pandemic has shown just how valuable, heroic, and dedicated this gendered workforce is.”