Press Release

OPSEU hospital professionals warn of shortages as union heads to arbitration

Publication Date

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 (All day)

TORONTO - An arbitrator will decide the wages, benefits, and working conditions for more than 7,000 health care professionals at 40 Ontario hospitals as the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and the Participating Hospitals, represented by the Ontario Hospital Association, were unable to reach an agreement last night at the bargaining table.

“Ontarians who are counting on faster results and shorter wait times will discover these goals are in jeopardy because long-standing problems in attraction and retention of Hospital Professionals are not being addressed,” says Yves Shank, chair of OPSEU’s bargaining team. “The hospital’s own research confirms this.”

The union expressed its frustration over the lack of progress with an employer whose hands were tied by its EGAP (the hospitals" advisory committee) in this round of bargaining.  Calls to both the EGAP and the Ontario government representatives failed to improve the hospitals" mandate.

The hospitals came to the table offering much less than the agreements recently agreed to with the provinces doctors and nurses. That includes no job security provisions to retain needed professionals.

Hospital Professionals encompass the professions that provide diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative services.  They include the medical laboratory technologists and medical radiation technologists who perform tests that doctors need to diagnose and treat.  They are the pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who ensure that the right medications in the proper dosages are being administered.  They are the physiotherapists, dietitians, occupational therapists, social workers and other treatment and rehabilitation professionals who help ensure that patients are well enough to be sent home.

“The Ontario government should be working to ensure that the hospitals’ budget balancing exercises do not cut back on these highly trained, essential members of the hospital health care team,” says Patty Rout, OPSEU First Vice-President / Treasurer.  “These are many of the highly-trained knowledge workers that the government is pegging its economic recovery on.”

The Ontario Hospital Associations’s 2007 Labour Market Survey shows that after nurses, medical laboratory technologists are the largest occupation for which hospitals expect a growth in staffing needs.  Dietitians, occupational therapists, respiratory technologists, pharmacy technicians are also on the OHA’s top 10 list.

The Ontario government and the province’s doctors reached a settlement in September 2008 with increases and attraction bonuses ranging from three to seven per cent per year over four years, depending on the specialty. Ontario’s hospitals and nurses reached a settlement last spring that will increase nurses’ wages by three per cent this year and another three per cent next year.  The nurses’ settlement also included significant improvements to benefits and working conditions. The hospitals came to the table with far less than this to cover the overall cost of improvements to wages, benefits, and working conditions.