Hamilton-based NDP leader Horwath to push Ford to recall legislature, repeal wage cap affecting nurses


Published January 5, 2022 at 6:12 pm


Ontario New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath, her Liberal and Green party counterparts will hold a rare joint media conference, calling for the end to a bill that caps nurses’ pay raises.

Several hospital networks across Ontario, including Hamilton Health Sciences, are above 100 per cent capacity while being understaffed due to healthcare workers self-isolating due to having COVID-19 or being a close contact of someone who has it. Certain procedures are also being postponed. As well, both Durham Region and Peel Region have experienced a shortage of available ambulance crews this week, affecting the ability to deliver life-saving care in medical emergencies. (William Osler Health System in Brampton, for instance, was in a Code Orange for two days.)

A press release said Horwath, who is also the MPP for Hamilton Centre, Green party Leader Mike Schreiner and Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca will appear at a virtual briefing at 9 a.m. on Thursday (Jan. 6) alongside union leaders Michael Hurley and Sharleen Stewart. They will call on Premier Doug Ford and the Ontario PC government “to immediately recall the legislature for an emergency session to confront the harsh reality of the province’s health staffing crisis starting with the urgent repeal of Bill 124.

Hurley is present of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, which is part of CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees). Stewart is president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare.

“As COVID-19 hospitalizations in Ontario rapidly rise, reaching over 2,000 on Wednesday, urgent action is needed to address a provincial healthcare system in crisis,” said the release, which was released by the two unions.

Bill 124, which took effect in November 2019 just ahead of COVID-19, generally limits annual salary increases to 1 per cent for many Ontario public sector employees, including nurses. The Ontario PC Party dubbed the legislation the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act. Nurses, who have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic for nearly two years, have said that having wage increases capped at 1 per cent is both demoralizing and a contributor to burnout. Other analysts have also said that the cap is damaging the competitiveness and retention of the public sector.

The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario has also called for a repeal of Bill 124. It also wants Health Minister Christine Elliott to move Ontario back to Stage 1 of its roadmap to re-open, rather than the modified Stage 2 that has been implemented.

The Ontario Legislature’s fall session ended on Dec. 9. In the late fall and winter of 2020-21, during the second wave of the pandemic and just ahead of the third, there was a 10-week break between sessions (Dec. 8 to Feb. 16).

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