TORONTO— Unifor health care members understand the need for the Ontario government’s temporary order giving hospitals extraordinary emergency powers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but the union cautions employers not to exert unnecessary force, and show respect for front-line workers while enacting the order.
“Unifor recognizes that this is not business as usual but we will be watching closely how hospitals use these special powers to manage this pandemic,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Health care workers understand the motive and goals of this temporary order. However, let me be crystal clear, we will monitor every workplace change and will not allow employers to abuse their powers with this order to cut front-line health workers or infringe upon workers’ rights.”
The temporary order allows hospitals to cancel and postpone services to free-up space and valuable staff, set staffing priorities, and develop, modify and implement redeployment plans for the next 14 days. It also allows volunteers to do work normally performed by unionized workers.
“This temporary order may over ride certain provisions of the collective agreement, but rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act remain intact,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director. “Health care members will continue to be engaged and bring any health and safety concerns to their joint occupational health and safety committees. Our members continue to be resilient and steadfast in their fight against the spread of COVID-19, and they bravely show up at work every single day.”
Prior to the temporary order being enacted, the union raised several concerns about the temporary order to Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott.
“We informed Minister Elliott that hospitals should only enact these directives in response to a demonstrated need,” said Andy Savela, Unifor Health Care Director. “This order should not be ‘open season’ on the terms and conditions of our collective agreements.”
Unifor will continue to provide updates as information becomes available at unifor.org/COVID19.