More than 26,000 health-care workers in Ontario have contracted COVID-19 at work and 24 are believed to have died, a workers’ union claims.
The statement was made by Michael Hurley, vice-president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, citing government data, during a virtual press conference on Thursday morning, calling for the urgent repeal of Bill 124 – Ontario’s one per cent wage increase cap per year on public sector employees – amid a surge of Omicron infections straining understaffed hospitals.
“During the pandemic, these health care workers could not get access to the protective equipment they needed to work safely,” he said.
“This feeling that no one cares about their safety is a key factor in the demoralization of health care workers.”
A repeal of the bill, Hurley said, would ensure health-care staff were properly compensated for increased risk and workloads during the Omicron surge, which was exacerbating a health-care worker shortage across the country.
Representatives from CUPE, which represents 190,000 health-care workers across Canada, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents 60,000 workers, were joined at the press conference by leaders of Ontario’s opposition parties: NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner.
Currently, 1,000 staff were off sick in the long-term care sector alone, president of SEIU, Sharleen Stewart, said.
“As recently as two days ago, we saw nursing home operators calling hotels and restaurants to see if they can bring their dietary restaurant staff into the home to take care of the nutritional needs of the residents,” Stewart said.