Intense weekend bargaining for 75,000 Ontario hospital workers, whose three unions formed a unique alliance in provincial negotiations, resulted in a tentative master contract with hospital employers.
“The hospitals had offered inferior wages and were looking to take away hard-earned rights,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to the Unifor National President. “To achieve a contract without any takeaways from the employer was only possible because hospital workers showed visible solidarity with all three unions and the bargaining teams.”
The tentative settlement was reached after weeks of hospital workers mobilizing, rallying and conducting visible workplace solidarity actions under the banner of Together For Respect. The joint union bargaining campaign spanned across more than 100 hospitals across Ontario where members of Unifor, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and SEIU Healthcare were employed. Just last week, on April 18 members of the three unions held workplace rallies across the province.
Initially the hospitals had tabled a long list of concessions and had refused to extend the wage increases that were voluntarily agreed to with other employees. When each union reached an impasse during its respective negotiations, CUPE, SEIU and Unifor formed the first-ever, tri-union bargaining alliance at the end of March.
“Frequently, hospital workers are activists for quality patient care and services in communities across Ontario,” said SEIU President Sharleen Stewart. “It is with much humility that they came forward to advocate for their own working conditions and respect in the workplace. Together, our three unions were able to accomplish something that, on our own, we would not have been able to do.”
One of the central issues in negotiations was workplace violence. A CUPE poll released last year found that 68 per cent of hospital staff offering direct care had experienced violence in the last year. In addition to new language on workplace violence, the tentative deal provides for a wage increase and there were no concessions accepted by the unions.