Toronto health centre’s unreasonable demands push workers toward strike

Thousands of Ontarians may face disruptions to their health care unless management at Black Creek Community Health Centre stop trying to back their front-line staff into a corner by demanding unfair concessions.

After numerous attempts to reason with their employer, the front-line health care workers will go on strike as of 12:01 a.m. on June 11th.

The employees at the health centre in the Jane and Finch and Black Creek areas are represented by OPSEU/SEFPO and union President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says it’s appalling that management is being so unreasonable.

“Our front-line heroes have been giving their all to support this underserved community, long before the pandemic began,” said Thomas.  “What do they get from the employer? Zero wage increases and demands that they give up hard-fought gains. This is no way to treat front-line heroes.”

Essential workers at community health centres in other parts of Toronto have received the maximum one per cent wage increase allowed under Bill 124. Black Creek Community Health Centre has refused to give its workers even this much, despite the fact they’ve taken on the additional task of running weekend vaccine clinics to increase access for this hot spot community.

The area that the health centre serves faces unemployment, low income, and immigration issues. The residents include racialized people and non-English speaking immigrants, who often have precarious immigration status and are uninsured as a result. Mental and physical health supports are limited to this historically underfunded and underserved community, and the support that the health centre’s workers provide is vital.

“What we’re asking for isn’t unreasonable,” said OPSEU/SEFPO Local 5117 President and Bargaining Team Chair, Mahnaz Pourahmadi. “Our members work hard every day to support residents who live with and experience chronic illnesses, domestic violence, addiction, mental health issues, and much more. We don’t want these people to be affected by a strike, but we have to stand up for ourselves if we’re not getting what we’re entitled to.”

OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says the health centre’s leaders should be ashamed to take their workers for granted.

“Black Creek Community Health Centre’s directors claim they’re all about support and empowerment for the community, yet they’re denying fair wages to front-line, racialized, predominantly female health care providers,” said Almeida. “Their actions show a cruel disregard for the value of these front-line workers, and a disregard for the health of the people in this community.”

Thomas says the employees are not asking for much and it’s unbelievable that the employer is demanding concessions during a pandemic.

“The health of thousands of people is on the line, while this employer is only thinking of the bottom line,” said Thomas.