With cases of COVID-19 increasing across Canada, Unifor has called on provincial governments and health authorities to do more to protect health care workers.
“Health care workers continue to take incredible risks for themselves and their families to help protect and care for their patients and residents,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “We need to protect these workers if we hope to manage this pandemic and increase everyone’s chances of a healthy recovery.”
Unifor represents nearly 30,000 health care workers across Ontario and Nova Scotia and has pushed those governments and health authorities to act swiftly to protect workers through measures such as signing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) protocols to ensure predictable and reliable access to the appropriate protection for any and all health workers who may come into contact with COVID-19, and wage increases for health care workers.
Unifor has been working with other health care unions in Ontario to ensure all health care workers have equal access to personal protective equipment.
“This week, it appears we have been able to get through to the government to revise their directives, ensuring all workers are treated the same, regardless of classification,” said Andy Savela, Director of Health Care. “Every worker’s life matters.”
Recognizing the global shortage and increasing demand for PPE, Unifor’s positon is that the priority of governments and all health care employers should be in securing PPE from other industries in less urgent need and not on hoarding PPE, or otherwise refusing access to PPE for workers at risk, on the frontlines.
In Nova Scotia, attempts to get a PPE Protocol signed have not been successful.
The NSGEU, NSNU, CUPE, Unifor and IUOE jointly agreed to this protocol, which is similar to protocols that have recently been adopted by the provincial government and employers in Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick. On March 30, the protocol was sent to Premier Stephen McNeil, Health & Wellness Minister Randy Delorey, Chief Medical Officer Robert Strang, as well as Dr. Brendan Carr at the NSHA and Dr. Krista Jangaard at the IWK.
So far, government and employer representatives have not agreed to sign the document.
In a joint statement on April 3, the five unions said:
Our frontline health care workers deserve the same level of respect, peace of mind and protection that is being provided to health care workers in other parts of this country.
We understand that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is in short supply worldwide, but this protocol strikes a balance between protecting both our supply and our frontline workers; by protecting them it would ensure they remain healthy and able to treat the sick.
We are doing our best to work cooperatively with government at this time of crisis, reaffirming our commitment to the Good Neighbour Protocol in 2009 and working with our members to help provide care during this difficult time. We need government to meet us half way.
“Unifor will continue to advocate for proper protocol and protections for health care workers,” said Linda MacNeil, Atlantic Regional Director. “We can’t fight this pandemic if health employers aren’t doing everything they can to prevent further exposure of COVID-19 to those most at risk, especially those whom the rest of us depend on for care.”
Information about the union’s response to the pandemic, as well as resources for members can be found at unifor.org/COVID19.