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Healthcare workers launch International Women’s Day actions with message to premier Ford: “respect us. protect us. pay us.”

March 7, 2021 - 12:00 AM

Unions representing 175,000 workers serving on the frontlines of this pandemic demand the Ford government support this female majority workforce

TORONTO, ON – Today, SEIU Healthcare, Unifor, and CUPE, unions representing 175,000 healthcare workers across Ontario, held a virtual media conference to announce the launch of International Women’s Day actions with a clear message to Premier Ford: “Respect Us. Protect Us. Pay Us.”

After shouldering the crushing burdens of the pandemic for the past year, workers in the healthcare sector—a majority female workforce—are calling on Premier Ford’s government to stand with working women, not on the side of a broken system that profits from their labour.

The following are their demands for respect, protection, and better pay for women in healthcare:

• Reverse the staff exodus in health care by turning exploitative part-time work into full-time jobs with benefits
• Provide paid-sick leave for Covid-19 related illnesses and providing pay while staff await Covid-19 test results or are in isolation
• Provide the PPE that health care workers need to work safely
• Make the initial $4 per hour “pandemic pay” available to all healthcare workers and made permanent going forward

Healthcare workers will demonstrate their demands at hospitals, nursing homes, and retirement homes across Ontario on Monday, March 8, 2021 (International Women’s Day), by wearing stickers and holding signs that read: “Respect Us. Protect Us. Pay Us.”

Media and the public can follow demonstrations by working women in healthcare on social media with the hashtag: #RespectProtectPay

QUOTES:

“This International Women’s Day, women in healthcare want more than hollow words from Premier Ford’s government. After the devastating financial and emotional toll from serving on the frontline of the pandemic, healthcare workers want those words backed up by bold action to fully recognize their contribution to the care economy. That must include paying them a living wage, and for low-wage workers like PSWs, that means raising the base wage to at least $25 per hour. Premier Ford could support working women in healthcare by doing that right away.” – Sharleen Stewart, President, SEIU Healthcare

“The lack of respect for care work has become painfully evident during COVID-19 but it stems from a longstanding failure to recognize the value of this work simply because women are performing it. This is evidenced by workers in health and long-term care who are often precariously employed and not paid a living wage. Full-time work with benefits is rarely available and they are forced to work at multiple jobs to simply survive.” – Katha Fortier, Assistant to the National President, Unifor

“Nearly 20,000 health care workers have contracted COVID-19 at work and 20 have died. Although health care staff were entitled to an N95 mask they couldn’t get one from their employers. They were told that this wasn’t necessary. The masks are under lock and key. This must change. This valuable female workforce deserves respect, protection and better pay. Mandating the N95 mask, as Quebec has done and $4.00 an hour in the form of pandemic pay would be strong gestures of appreciation by the Ontario provincial government.” – Sharon Richer, Secretary-Treasurer, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE)