Hospital Professionals are worth more: Arbitration award a step forward, but not enough to resolve recruitment and retention crisis

Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO Hospital Professionals, representing laboratory technologists, respiratory therapists, physiotherapists and many more, say that an arbitration award released today is a step forward, but will not do enough to resolve hospital recruitment and retention problems.

Arbitrator William Kaplan awarded wage increases of 8.25% over three years (in addition to the initial 1% per year previously awarded), lump sum payments of $750 – $1,750 for hospital professionals who were excluded from 2020’s pandemic pay, and increases to shift and weekend premiums.

Like many unions who have been constrained by the Ford government’s wage cap legislation, Bill 124, OPSEU/SEFPO Hospital Professionals Division (HPD) negotiated a “wage reopener” clause in their contract. This allowed them to re-open bargaining for their contracts and renegotiate their wages if the legislation was struck down in court.

“While the wage increases, premiums and benefits from the award are much-needed to begin addressing the staffing crisis in Ontario’s hospitals – an issue Arbitrator Kaplan acknowledged in the decision – they unfortunately fall short of being competitive enough to recruit and retain highly-skilled hospital professionals,” said Sandi Blancher, HPD Bargaining Team Chair. “After years of stagnant wages, chronic understaffing that has resulted in our time off being denied, and chronically heavy workloads – this award is a start, but more needs to be done.”

The union further added that the award does not go far enough to address the rising cost of living that workers face. The real and projected inflation rate during the time period the award covers (2022-2024) is about 12%. In 2022 alone, food prices rose by 10%, and shelter costs increased by 7%, according to Statistics Canada.

“Kaplan’s decision to award additional money in lieu of the pandemic pay that our members were unjustly excluded from by the Ford government in 2020 is certainly a long-overdue win for our members, but the amounts awarded are still less than what our colleagues received at that time,” said Sara Labelle, HPD Chair.

“The fact remains that there is a systemic problem in our hospital system – hospital professionals are expected to accept being underpaid in comparison to their counterparts in other health sectors and in the private system. The crisis in our hospitals will not be resolved while this problem continues,” added Labelle.

Bill 124, which capped public sector worker wage increases by 1% for a period of three years, was struck down in November 2022 by the Ontario Superior Court. The Ford government is currently appealing this decision.

“Instead of wasting public dollars on appealing the court’s decision to strike down Bill 124, Doug Ford should be building up our public health care system. That includes providing adequate funding to hire hospital professionals and pay these specialized health care workers enough to retain them,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick. “These attacks on workers and privatization of hospital services only make the conditions in our hospital worse, for workers and patients alike. Hospital professionals deserve more, and so do the patients they care for.”

OPSEU/SEFPO represents more than 25,000 workers in over 250 highly-specialized hospital professions in Ontario’s hospitals.

Click here to read the full arbitration decision.

Media contact:
Sara Labelle, OPSEU/SEFPO Hospital Professionals Division Chair, 905-914-4037,