Close to a dozen Local 294 members currently on strike against CarePartners traveled to Queen’s Park yesterday to hear CarePartners’ highly questionable bargaining behaviour raised in Question Period and during Members’ Statements.
The Local 294 members felt it was important to be at Queen’s Park because of the Auditor General’s scathing report on CCACs released the day prior and because their MPP Cindy Forster (Welland) would raise the CarePartners’ strike in the legislature.
Representing Local 294 were:
- Erin Warman (local president)
- Julie Reid
- Trish Fowler
- Marian Landry
- Perry Wong
- Nellie Wolff
- Bev Halden
- Pat McLaren
- Angela DiPietro
- Karen Goldhawk
- Laurie Filson (mobilizer)
The OPSEU members watched from the Gallery as Cindy Forster introduced the members of Local 294 to the House by name as soon as they arrived, and they received strong applause from the MPPs.
Cindy Forster asked the question about CarePartners, the CCAC report, and about the bargaining item with the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan.
Following is the Question Period exchange:
Ms. Cindy Forster: My question is for the Acting Premier. Yesterday we learned in the Auditor General’s report into the CCACs that in 2014, 62%—$1.5 billion—of the funds that go to the CCAC went to private, for-profit home care service providers—in a public system—like CarePartners in Welland and Norfolk. CarePartners continues to receive their piece of the pie even as their front-line staff, nurses who do everything from wound care to dialysis, have been on strike seeking a collective agreement for the last six months.
Will the Acting Premier tell these front-line workers and nurses who are here today why they’ve been left out on the street, unable to provide care for thousands of patients in Niagara and Norfolk, while the government continues to shovel money into CarePartners so they can pay people to take their jobs away?
Hon. Deborah Matthews: To the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.
Hon. Eric Hoskins: I appreciate the question, and I’m happy that there are members of the nursing profession here—
Interjection: And personal support workers.
Hon. Eric Hoskins: And personal support workers, as well. Thank you for indicating that.
Thank you for the work that you do day in and day out, on behalf of Ontarians. We appreciate it, and we respect it.
Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago of meeting with OPSEU, with Smokey Thomas, as well as with representatives of those same nurses and front-line workers that the member opposite is talking about. We had a significant conversation, and as a result of that I had a good understanding of the challenges they’re facing in negotiations with CarePartners. As a result of that, in fact even prior to that, we have implored and asked both parties, but specifically CarePartners, to get back to the negotiating table and to work hard with OPSEU, the bargaining agent representing those front-line health care workers, to find a solution to this outstanding difficulty.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Ms. Cindy Forster: Last week, the OPSEU negotiating committee did go back to the bargaining table in an effort to end this strike. The CarePartners negotiator, a well-known, well-paid negotiator who actually is a negotiator for OPS negotiations with the Liberal government, tabled a new proposal that was never there before that demanded that any costs added by the ORPP to CarePartners with implementing that plan will have to be borne entirely by these front-line workers.
Will the Acting Premier, in front of these home care workers, these health care professionals who are here today, commit to direct CarePartners to withdraw the outrageous ORPP demand immediately, get serious about bargaining, negotiate a collective agreement in good faith, not bad faith, or see CarePartners money dry up?
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you. Minister?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: I know that the third party agrees with me that we shouldn’t be bargaining or discussing the details of the bargaining in public, certainly not in the Legislature. I think we also agree that we believe that the partners, both CarePartners and the front-line workers who are aptly represented by OPSEU, need to, in a serious fashion, get back to the bargaining table and resolve this long-standing situation.
Our goal, as government, is to ensure that the care that is being provided to people is of the highest quality. I know that the Ministry of Labour has provided mediators that are available as well. As I mentioned, I met with OPSEU and the front-line workers just a couple of weeks ago. I am watching developments very, very closely. We aren’t directly involved in negotiations. Labour stands ready to help. We want this resolved as much as you do.
After Question Period the Local members met with NDP Health Critic France Gelinas. The group then returned to the House for Cindy Forster’s Member Statement.
Cindy Forster: I’m proud to be here today to stand with the health care members of OPSEU Local 294 who are here today in the members’ gallery; 140 members of this local who are community nurses who provide complex nursing care to people in homes in Norfolk and Niagara, from wound care to chemo and dialysis in patients’ homes across the region. Yet for six months they have been on a forced strike by their employer, CarePartners, and have been attempting to negotiate a collective agreement for over two years. Over 1,400 patients were serviced by these hard-working and dedicated nurses, and the ones suffering the most from this strike are the patients.
As a former nurse myself, I have joined them on the picket line, and I have written to the Minister of Health. But, to date, we’ve had no action from the minister’s office.
Today, the day after the AG’s report—the Auditor General put out her report on the CCACs—I’m calling for CarePartners to return to the table. Her report showed that there are serious issues within the system, with CEOs fattening their paycheques by as much as 27% while front-line workers are on the picket line.
It’s time for the government to start thinking about vulnerable patients who continue to suffer because of bad-faith bargaining and because of this strike. This is an honoured profession, and I don’t think they need to be on the picket line. They need to be where they do their work best, with their patients.
Local 294 members at Queen’s Park: