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Gratitude and welcome to the nine Newfoundland health care heroes who are here to help

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas

Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is sending a hero’s welcome to the nine Newfoundland and Labrador health care workers who have arrived in Ontario to help hospitals deal with the COVID-19 third wave.

“On behalf of all 180,000 members of our great union, I’d like to say to these heroes from Atlantic Canada: welcome to Ontario and thank you for your courageous help,” said Thomas. “Like the OPSEU/SEFPO members who answer the call every year to leave the safety and security of their homes and communities to help with crises like wildfires, these front-line heroes from the East Coast are showing public services at their best.

“Whether they come from the farthest reaches of Canada or from around the world, you can count on public sector workers to put their lives on the line when others need help.”

Earlier this month, Ontario Premier Doug Ford put out a cross-Canada call for help during the third wave. With the spike in case counts, the province’s already overburdened hospital system is being swamped – the Ministry of Health estimates we are facing a shortage of more than 4,000 nurses over the next four months.

“The natural urge is to run from crisis – front-line public sector workers like our visitors from the East Coast run towards it. I’m proud and thankful they’re here to help,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “And this is far from the first-time workers from Newfoundland and Labrador have answered the call to help workers here in Ontario. Our sister union NAPE (Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees) was the first to provide our members help with an interest-free loan during the 1996 OPS strike.”

Thomas said he’s not one bit surprised that workers from other provinces have been so quick to offer help, but he urged the Premier to begin laying the foundations for an Ontario health care system and public service that won’t be so reliant on outside help in the future.

“Time and again, the pandemic has laid bare the massive cracks in public services that have been wrenched open by decades of cuts and austerity,” said Thomas. “Ontario is wealthier now than it has ever been in the past – it’s time for our government to start reinvesting some of that wealth in our hospitals, schools, and social services so they have the capacity to keep us healthy, safe, and prosperous.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931

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