Nurses. File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / jcpjrNurses. File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / jcpjr

Arbitrator awards tens of thousands of hospital workers wage increase

About 65,000 Ontario hospital workers will see their pay increase by six per cent over the next two years.

An arbitrator awarded those members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and Service Employees International Union the increase in Thursday's two-year contract.

The workers include registered practical nurses, personal support workers, porters, dietary workers, housekeeping staff, medical device reprocessing technicians, ward clerks, and maintenance workers.

"Hospital workers can temporarily breathe a sigh of relief knowing their wages are going up six per cent over the next two years with this contract. Patients deserve hospital workers who are focused on them, not the economic anxieties they face because of years of attacks from the provincial government," said Sharleen Stewart, the president of SEIU Healthcare. "After our unions delivered Premier Ford a defeat on Bill 124, this award is a win for hospital workers who have been holding the healthcare system together with sacrifice and grit, and it's a brutal recognition that hospital services will indeed collapse without better wages for frontline staff."

The award follows a court ruling in June 2023 that Bill 124, which froze public sector wage increases to one per cent annually, was unconstitutional. The decision awarded hospital workers a 6.25 per cent retroactive increase.

Last fall, OCHU-CUPE, SEIU, and Unifor proposed joint bargaining with the Ontario Hospital Association. They were denied, and the unions accused the association of trying to divide the unions to weaken outcomes for hospital workers. They signed a solidarity pact and maintained collaboration.

The contract also awards the workers better health and dental benefits, enhanced weekend, evening, and night premiums, and pay should they have to quarantine or isolate in the event of an outbreak.

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