Health care workers held a rally outside Riverview Gardens in Chatham, Ontario on July 7,2022 to draw attention to major issues facing workers at the municipally-run home for the aged after bargaining talks broke down in the days before.
“We know your commitment to the residents has never wavered and we’re here with you today to demand Mayor Canniff and every city councillor show us their commitment to you,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to the National President, to the crowd. “They need to come to the table with a respectful offer and we won’t leave them alone until they do!”
Fortier was one of more than 100 people standing outside Riverview Gardens at a rally organized around the workers’ shift change so the demonstration wouldn’t disrupt residents’ schedules or level of care.
“If we could strike, we would,” said one Registered Practical Nurse (RPN). “We are just so tired of being refused our vacation requests and our necessary time off. We are human beings and we are all at a breaking point.”
Since Ontario health care workers are not legally allowed to strike, members of Unifor Local 127 have no option to picket as the employer stalls negotiations.
“We held a mock strike vote, just to take the temperature of this unit, and the vote came back an overwhelming 99% in favour of a strike,” said Jeff McFadden, President of Local 127. “We need Mayor Canniff and all the Chatham councillors to turn their attention to these workers and the crisis at Riverview Gardens. These members can’t continue working like this. Continuing to neglect them will be harmful for them, for the residents at Riverview Gardens, and for our entire community.”
Unifor will be escalating its actions until the municipality comes to the table with meaningful solutions and a willingness to bargain a fair collective agreement.
The union continues to receive reports from workers across the health care sector experiencing mental and physical health strain amid unprecedented workloads and the continuing pandemic.