February 7, 2007
More health care
workers needed to address understaffing crisis
OPSEU and the
Ontario Federation of Labour want the McGuinty government to hire
more health care workers to address the understaffing crisis in the
OPSEU and the
OFL presented more than 15,000 postcards to NDP health critic
Shelley Martel at a Jan. 19 press conference at Queen’s Park. The
postcards call on the government to:
front-line staffing in every part of the health care system;
care delivery in public hands;
democratic control of the Local Health Integration Networks.
challenges ahead with McGuinty’s health care agenda
OPSEU has a full
agenda of health care concerns this coming year, including:
Campbell’s final SARS report to lobby for needed changes in the way
Ontario responds to health care emergencies — especially workers’
health and safety;
member interests as the McGuinty government moves on a 10-year
strategic plan for health care;
LHINs regarding labour issues and to reduce the impact of impending
province’s plan for more than 30 privatized hospitals;
Working with the
Ontario Health Coalition to retain health services at small rural
members amid lab amalgamations.
You can now work
after age 65 — if you wish
By Patty Rout
Bill 211 is an
amendment to the Human Rights Code and became law Dec. 12 , 2006.
workers with a collective agreement, the rules apply as well. All
collective agreements must comply with the law.
should consider when planning to work past 65:
continue working and contributing to their HOOPP plan until they are
69. There is no cap to the number of years you can accumulate but in
your 70th year you must start collecting your pension plan. It does
not mean you cannot work, but the maximum you can accrue credits for
is age 69, the same as CPP. Some people terminate, start their
pension, then return to work. The legislation does not allow a
member to collect a pension and then contribute and build credit in
the same pension plan at the same time. If the collective agreement
required participation in the pension plan, the employer would
deduct the HOOPP contributions as per the collective agreement and
then HOOPP would refund the amount at the end of the year.
entitlements have not changed. Workers who are injured after their
63rd birthday will be entitled to receive up to two years of Loss of
Earnings Benefits. Employers are also not obligated to bring back
injured workers age 65 or older after they recover from a workplace
CPP, Old Age
Security, and Guaranteed Income Supplement are federal programs and
unaffected by the age change.
Insurance is not affected. You continue to pay premiums if you work
past 65 and are eligible to collect unemployment, sickness, parental
or compassionate leave benefits.
65 and over could be eligible for government benefits such as
Ontario Drug Benefit Plan. Not all drugs are covered by this plan.
If you are a senior single making more than $16,018 a year or if you
are a senior couple with a combined income of more then $24,175 a
year you will pay your first $100 deductible in prescription costs
yearly. After that you pay a $6.11 ODB dispensing fee for each
prescription filled within the year.
covers the full cost of annual eye exams for those over 65. You
would be able to apply other eligible eye costs to your workplace
receive physiotherapy at no cost through hospitals, long-term care,
home care and CCACs. Workers covered by the central language can
still pay a physiotherapist of their choice and their benefit plan
will pay up to $300 dollars per year.
aids are partially covered by the Assistive Devices Program (ADP)
and the balance (for workers covered by the central language) can be
submitted to the workplace benefit plan.
disability coverage ends at age 65. Life insurance ends at age 65
unless you have negotiated something different. Members should have
the ability to transfer from the group plan to an individual plan
before age 65.
Central HPD agreement negotiated benefits to age 69 this last round.
With our workloads it is not likely many of us will choose to work
past 65, but now it will be our decision!
report: Hospitals dangerous as mines or factories
Leah Casselman welcomed Justice Archie Campbell’s final report on
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which recognized that
hospitals and other health care workplaces are as dangerous as mines
the SARS report accurately reflected the concerns of OPSEU members
who were among the more than 600 health care workers interviewed by
Campbell listened. The report reflects our concerns. We welcome the
recommendations and request the McGuinty government immediately take
action,” Casselman said.
OPSEU praised the report’s recommendations that:
precautionary principle (the principle that health workers should
err on the side of caution, in the absence of scientific evidence)
should be enshrined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act
and other relevant legislation.
a safety culture is critical to making hospitals safer places. More
funding, training and a change of approach are needed.
staffing levels for teams of occupational health and safety experts
failures between government and hospitals; and hospitals and
workers, must be addressed.
to stay healthy to do their jobs and protect the public. Worker
health and safety is just as important in a health care workplace as
in any other workplace, and this report recognizes this,” Casselman
dedication of our health care workers protected Ontarians from a
much more terrible SARS epidemic,” Casselman said. “This report
validates the need for health care workers to be protected on the
job so they can do the job of protecting the public. OPSEU pledges
to help implement the report and challenges the government to do
OPSEU, CUPE, ONA
and SEIU sent a joint letter to Premier McGuinty Jan. 22 asking the
Premier to implement the SARS report recommendations immediately.
See www.opseu.org for the full text.
For the report,
privatization: scope narrowed but P3s still a threat
By Patty Rout
Minister of Health Ron Sapsford has told hospitals the Ministry has
adopted a new policy for public private partnerships.
financing new buildings, the P3 hospitals will now be limited to
“hard facility management and life cycle maintenance.”
the management of the physical plant, information technology
backbone, co-ordination of medical equipment procurement and
non-patient food services.
partnerships are not to include housekeeping, patient food services,
portering, laundry, linen, material management, medical equipment
maintenance, diagnostic services, hospital management, pharmacies
and clinical care.
This will apply
to projects already at market in places like North Bay, Sault Ste.
Marie and Niagara.
It is apparent
from the announcement that some P3 services will still be
privatized. But the scope of privatization has been narrowed. So
let’s keep the heat on P3’s!
crisis in lab is now!
There is a plan
for more nurses and doctors, but little plan for other healthcare
shortage of workers and a cascade of retirements mean huge numbers
of vacant positions. One hospital said it took more than a year to
fill a vacant position; there is no one out there!
The focus on
good jobs, full time jobs, and decent working conditions has helped
recruit nurses and doctors. But our hospitals are now canceling
shifts for weeks on end because there are no lab technologists to
asking lab techs to cover double shifts for days in a row to
maintain service. In order for medical laboratories to respond to
the emerging health diseases we need to address the shortages of lab
techs now. It is past time to look at the shortages of other health
care workers. Today, we focus on the largest shortage in healthcare,
the medical laboratory technologist.
To solve this
problem, we need to improve the work environment and job
satisfaction by investing in full-time jobs and stopping the heavy
reliance on part-time and casual workers.
During the SARS
crisis, workers were employed at multiple work sites. Many reports
have recommended against this, but because of shortages it is now
being encouraged more than ever. Amalgamated hospitals are forcing
workers to travel 30 - 40 km to three or four worksites to do their
job. Travel costs are not reimbursed. This is unacceptable!
We need safer
workplaces to encourage workers to come into our professions. We
need safety-engineered sharps legislation. Ergonomic issues also
need to be addressed.
We need to
enable healthcare workers to fully use the scope of practice they
are educated for, and improve career opportunities in our
We need to
increase course enrollments, reduce tuition costs and train
aggressively wherever the shortages exist. A government-sponsored
Health Council Summit in 2005 identified
as needing four new professions: physician assistant, nurse
endoscopist, surgical first assistant and clinical specialist
radiation therapist. In Ontario we also had new recommendations from
HPRAC: a pharmacy technician college under pharmacists, a new
college for naturopaths and homeopaths, a college for kiniseologists
and a college for psychotherapists. The National Health Council has
connected shortages of medical laboratory technologists with longer
Technologists: third-largest profession in health care
There are more
than 20,000 med lab techs in Canada. It is the third largest health
More than 36 per
cent of technologists are in Ontario. About 80 per cent are female
and the average age is 42.
There are 57 lab
techs per 100,000 in Ontario as compared with 99 per 100,000 in
A shortage of
workers is the number one issue for our members and it must be
addressed by our governments now.
HPD Year in
2006, representatives from our OPSEU health sectors made history as
we came together with representatives from SEIU, CUPE and ONA to
begin development of a plan to work together around organizing,
pension, negotiations and communication. This was the first time the
four main health care unions had worked together. We are still
working together around LHINs and other issues.
In February we
set bargaining priorities, consisting of Yves Shank- chair, Leslie
Sanders- vice chair, Bryan Mitchell, Sandy Blancher, Connie Ferrara,
Boris Prus, Stephen Wallis, Moya Beall – negotiator and Michelle
Haber and Gwen Jenkins in research.
With our red
scarves wrapped warmly around us, on a cold February day, we then
rallied around Health Minister George Smitherman’s office to tell
him how we felt about the lack of input and the need for a LHIN
human resource plan.
decided to ignore us when the legislation appeared in April. No one
was happy. The lobby began again.
In June, HPD
members rallied at Queen’s Park with workers from across the
province. Our members told the McGuinty government “hands off our
health system. We want a publicly funded and publicly delivered
system. Stop the privatization!”
bargaining team then shocked us all by negotiating a contract! The
contract was ratified by 95 per cent of the membership. We hope it
brought some stability to the sector and time to see how the new
language actually works. Local bargaining continues with arbitration
in late March 2007.
In June, the OHA
and five health care unions agreed to request a meeting with Ron
Sapsford, the deputy minister of health, around a human resource
plan. We have had two meetings with Sapsford.
plan we hope to define the way workers move from one health sector
to another, much like the agreements in the late 90s did on
amalgamations. The language will be built around the PRSLTA, Bill
36, announced earlier in the year.
In the summer,
we surveyed members about what they would like to see at the BPS
conference in June 2007. Contract enforcement issues were by far the
top issue for members.
With help from
OPSEU Executive Board Members, HPD leadership courses were held on
accommodation issues. Regions 2, 6 and 7 will have courses in 2007.
In Sept. 2006,
the OHA/OPSEU central Joint Health and Safety meetings brought about
some planned recommendations for ultrasound techs. Your OPSEU team
members were Brendan Kilcline, Joan Murray and OPSEU health and
safety officer Lisa McCaskell. The new public health and protections
act was also introduced.
In October, we
met with Josh Tepperman, assistant to Rob Sapsford, to discuss
shortages of allied health professionals.
Many of us
attended the Health Coalition conference in Toronto. Members asked
questions of NDP Health Critic Shelley Martel and George Smitherman
about their plans for the health system.
October, pay equity meetings began (see story, page 7). We plan to
have this completed before the end of 2008, before the next round of
bargaining begins. Our next meeting is Feb. 9 in Toronto.
In November, NDP
MPP Shelley Martel brought the safe sharps legislation to second
reading (see story, page 6).
attended an excellent course on fiscal advisory committees put on by
the OFL with support from the OPSEU board. This valuable course was
planned in part by Pat McNamara, Pat Collyer and Rick Janson. New
bills have been introduced on successor rights, long term care,
pandemic planning and more.
Is the sick-note
By Brendan Kilcline, health and safety chair
OPSEU locals must deal with more aggressive “attendance management
policies” and programs imposed by employers designed to reduce the
use of sick leave provisions of the collective agreement. They do
not do this by improving working conditions, reducing workload and
stress or preventing injury and illness, but by intimidating workers
into coming into work sick.
employer demands sickness certification from the employee for all
further incidents. Apart from inconveniencing the employee and
encouraging them to come to work sick, this serves no legitimate
function for the employer, employee, or society at large.
would agree a sick-note for a short-term, minor, self-limiting
illness or injury serves no medically useful purpose.
often asked to offer a retrospective opinion on the employee’s
medical capacity to perform job duties, the demands of which the
physician is not in a position to fully assess.
If the employee
is forthright as to the purpose of the visit and the lack of medical
urgency, the appointment is often a considerable time from the
illness that required the visit. (Why displace a patient with more
pressing needs?) Furthermore if a physician can do little for you
but fill in paperwork, they would prefer that you don't give their
more seriously ill patients your cold in their waiting room!
employees produce the dubious document has many negative
consequences. It encourages the sick worker to come into work
and share their
illness with their colleagues. The employee often has to take time
off work to obtain the certificate, thus increasing the burden on
their co-workers who work short to cover the absence.
office visits reduces the availability of physician services to
patients that actually need them!
true cost of this abuse is being recognized. In the U.K. employers
are forbidden from demanding physician notes for illnesses of less
than seven days. Employees self-certify for such events.
employers increasingly and inappropriately use the healthcare
infrastructure as a component of attendance management policies.
Reducing absenteeism due to illness can be better achieved by other
more legitimate and supportive means.
complain that their emergency rooms are filled with patients that
could be better treated elsewhere. They should be a little more
aware of the burden generated by such unreasonable requirements.
passes second reading
NDP MPP Shelley
Martel’s Bill on safer sharps passed second reading in the
Legislature Nov. 16, 2006. OPSEU, along with unions SEIU and ONA,
are pressing for Bill 30, Martel’s Private Member’s Bill that calls
for the mandatory use of safety-engineered sharps, to be passed into
law in 2007. About 50 health care workers attended second reading.
We are lobbying
MPPs to make sure this Bill gets a committee hearing and that
Minister of Labour Steve Peters brings the Bill to final reading
before the next election in October. To assist with the campaign,
visit www.saferneedles.ca .
finally moving forward on pay equity
The long process
of pay equity negotiations is in the early stages. Your team is
Patty Rout, chair of the division, Susan Head from the executive and
Yves Shank and Moya Beall, negotiator for the HPD.
So far, we have
had two meetings with our counterparts at the OHA, and we have begun
the discussions on the Terms of Reference, which will map the tools
and processes used by the Joint Pay Equity Committee. This will be a
long-term project, which we are hoping is finalized before the next
round of negotiations. We will update you as much as possible
throughout the process.
Professionals Division offers seven scholarships (one per OPSEU
region) annually to students entering professions in the HPD. The
fund offers OPSEU members or their dependents an opportunity to win
a $750 scholarship toward post-secondary education at a publicly
funded recognized Canadian university or college. The student must
be enrolled in a Hospital Professional program. The deadline for
applications will be June 1 of each year. For more information go
to www.opseu.org and click
on the “scholarships” button.
technologists lend a hand in El Salvador
Yves Shank, President, Local 659
Alan and Kelly
Marcon are members of local 659 Sudbury Regional Hospital. Alan is
a Cytology Technologist and Kelly is a Blood Bank Technologist in
the laboratory. For the past few years, both have been dedicating
time to help the people of El Salvador.
involved in El Salvador in 2001, when they were invited to
participate in house building after two earthquakes hit the
country. While they were there, it became obvious to them that
besides housing, the medical care offered was also inadequate. Two
from this group who had medical connections were asked to raise
funds for a medical clinic and return with a medical team to
kick-start this clinic. After successful fundraising in Canada,
Kelly and Alan returned with a medical team to El Salvador in 2003,
and built the “Amigos Para Siempre” medical clinic. The clinic ran
full tilt till 2005, and has been running at limited capacity due to
lack of funds.
Kelly and Alan
returned in Feb. 2006, and were ecstatic to find a group of
professionals from the University of El Salvador who had a keen
interest in getting the clinic fully operational and overseeing the
project on a long term basis.
located in the north of El Salvador, will provide full service
(doctor and nurse) to 15,000 people (about 3,000 families) who do
not have access to medical care. More than 50 per cent are
Kelly and Alan
have made a commitment to the people to do everything in their power
to see that this community has adequate health care. Their
exuberance has caught on within the laboratory and the hospital, and
many have donated towards this special cause. Medications have been
bought and donated by Sudbury Regional Hospital doctors. As Kelly
and Alan prepare to bring their first shipment of goods to the
people of Northern El Salvador, I can only express to you how proud
we are to work with such generous people.
information on this project, contact me at
need to make their voices heard on electoral reform: Make your vote
By Leah Casselman, OPSEU President
Does your vote
first-past-the-post voting system is sharply skewed against the
wishes of the majority, the governments we elect are usually less
progressive than we are.
even though the majority of people in Canada want action on health
care, child poverty, child care and climate change, the Liberals got
away with doing pretty much nothing on these issues from 1993 to
2004. They did this despite three “majority” governments in a row
after they won with only 41, 38, and 41 per cent of votes cast.
It doesn’t need
to be like that.
governments get more credit for progressive acts like the end to
extra-billing by Ontario doctors. Medicare was brought in by a
minority Liberal government with the backing of the NDP.
governments succeeded because the NDP moved from being an advocate
for the people to being a “bargaining agent” for the people. Would
Stephen Harper be making any progressive noises about the
environment right now if he had a majority government? Not on your
Here in Ontario,
we’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change to a proportional
representation system that will ensure that every vote counts. We
need a simple way to vote that guarantees that the percentage of
seats a party wins matches the percentage of votes it earns.
assembly is now meeting to decide we need a new electoral system.
They have until May 15 to craft a proposal. There could be a
referendum on it next October. For more information, see Fair Vote
The true winners
from electoral reform in Canada will be the voters who have been
shut out of power for too long.
Hospital Professionals Division
Patricia Rout Local
348 Chair Lakeridge Health Corp. Oshawa
Yves Shank Local 659
Vice-Chair Sudbury Regional Hospital
Bryan Mitchell Local
570 Secretary Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto
Pat McNamara Local 566
Treasurer Toronto East General
Boris Prus Local 141
Education & Membership Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance
Brendan Kilcline Local
444 Health & Safety Kingston General Hospital
Susan Head Local 464
Job Security Ottawa Hospital
Local 466 Public Policy Perth & Smiths Falls District Hospital
Yves Shank Local
659 Chair - Central Team Sudbury Regional Hospital
Peggy Burke Local
662 First Alternate North Bay General Hospital
Local 659 Chair -
Central Team Sudbury Regional Hospital
Peggy Burke Local
662 First Alternate North Bay General Hospital
Authorized by Leah
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