OPSEU/SEFPO calls on government to protect health care workers from convoy harassment

Toronto — OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is calling on the provincial government to take all steps necessary to ensure health care workers are not harassed by the anti-vaccination convoy that has disrupted Ottawa.

Thomas says he is troubled by reports that health care workers in Ottawa have been harassed, blocked from going to work and have not felt safe amid the disruptive behavior of the protest. He is worried about reports the convoy is planning to descend on Queen’s Park in the coming days. OPSEU/SEFPO represents thousands of health care workers in the hospitals in Toronto’s downtown core, plus staff who work at community agencies, shelters and supportive housing.

“I always have and always will support people’s right to protest,” said Thomas. “But not when people’s lives are put in danger. It’s simply unacceptable that front-line health care workers are harassed and prevented from doing their vital work.”

Thomas says he is disappointed that the protesters have taken out their frustrations on front-line health care workers.

“Our members have protected us and kept us safe during the pandemic,” said Thomas. “They have put their lives on the line and deserve to be treated with far more respect than what we have seen in Ottawa this week.”

Thomas noted it’s a sad situation when some health care workers in Toronto were advised by their managers not to wear scrubs when coming to and leaving work.

OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says the protesters are barking up the wrong tree when they start harassing front-line health care workers.

“Our members don’t make policy and it’s wrong that they’re being bullied,” said Almeida. “The protesters should take their beef to the politicians who decide policy and leave front-line health care professionals alone.”

Sara Labelle, the chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Hospital Professionals Division, says it’s disappointing to see front-line workers caught in the middle.

“Front-line health care workers have been putting their lives on the line throughout this pandemic,” said Labelle.  “They have been Ontarians’ best defence and it is unacceptable that those same workers have to defend themselves on the way to and from work.”

Dave Doran, executive member of OPSEU/SEFPO’s ambulance division based in Eastern Ontario, is concerned that patient care is being compromised because protesters are causing disruptions around Ottawa.

“I’m greatly concerned about the possibility of ambulances being delayed because of protesters blocking streets,” said Doran. “People’s lives shouldn’t be put in jeopardy.”

Thomas says OPSEU/SEFPO will support any reasonable measures to ensure patients aren’t blocked from getting the health care they need and that health care workers can go to work free of harassment and intimidation.

“When OPSEU/SEFPO members protest we do it responsibly and respectfully,” said Thomas.  “These protesters who are part of the convoy have crossed the line and they should realize they’re not helping their cause with the public. Take a deep breath and a step back folks.”

For more information:

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931, OPSEUCommunications@opseu.org

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