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Ford is repaying health workers by stabbing them in the back.

It wasn’t long ago that politicians were lining up to give praise to health care workers. Indeed, these workers have been at the very front lines of this pandemic, seeing and experiencing firsthand the horrors of this disease.

In April, Doug Ford claimed it was the nurses and health care workers that deserved the accolades instead of himself. That’s all fine and well, but Ford’s actions don’t back up his words. 

At the same time, the Ontario government was instituting emergency orders that eroded the workplace rights of health care workers. Unions objected, but their warnings were ignored. After months of sacrifice, health care workers are being rewarded with an even more brazen attack on their worker rights.  A new bill being fast-tracked by Ford’s government will see health care workers stripped of “their vacation rights, their leave of absence rights, their seniority rights, [and] their health and safety rights.”

To really grasp how much of an insult this bill is, we must look at what health care workers have had to endure these past several months.

Early on, thousands of nurses came out of retirement, put plans on hold, and even took on extra hours to join the COVID-19 fight. Not long after came the reports of personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages. Nurses worked through the lack of masks, gowns, and other much-needed gear, at their own risk.

Some long-term care nurses had to take their employer to court before they secured access to adequate PPE at work.

Through this pandemic, it has been health care workers who have had to bear the burden of comforting sick patients and anxious families. As if that wasn’t enough, they also have to worry about their own health and the risks they pose to their own families.

“The emotion is high, the stress is high. And some of [the nurses] said the day goes by, or the shift goes by, and they just feel empty by the end of it“ says Vicki McKenna an RN in Ontario.

“Half of our membership stay in sheds, in their basements, trailers because they don’t want to bring COVID home to their kids, to their partners,” says union president Michael Hurley.

So what is Bill 195?

The Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, or bill 195, allows the Ford government to keep in place their emergency orders even once the state of emergency is lifted.

Many of these emergency orders override health care worker’s collective rights. The Ontario Council of Healthcare Unions (OCHU) lists the following effects on workplace rights:

Under Bill 195:
Vacations can be cancelled
Your shift can be changed (from days to nights for example)
Your job can be eliminated and you can be reassigned with no say
Hours of work can be changed
Leaves of absence can be denied or cancelled
You can be moved to another site
Contractors and volunteers can be brought in to do work, as long as there is not a layoff. But they can do your job and you can be reassigned.”

Ontario Council of Healthcare Unions (OCHU) Website

These emergency orders were meant to be temporary. They had to be renewed every 14 days. With Bill 195, the Ford government is doing away with this requirement, allowing them to maintain orders that infringe on the collective bargaining rights of health care workers without an actual state of emergency. What’s more, the Ford government can extend and amend these orders easier and with less accountability.

Union representatives say the government introduced Bill 195 without any consultation from unions. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has called the legislation “undemocratic” and is calling on MPPs to vote against it.

The OCHU, which represents Ontario’s health care workers, held a vote and 98% of their membership voted in favour of political action against Ford’s Bill 195. A series of escalating political and legal actions are now planned, possibly even work interruptions.

Doug Ford has gone from praising health care workers to waging war on them. While these emergency orders may have been justifiable during the height of the pandemic, today they are a slap in the face of the health care workers who have been most critical in our fight against COVID-19.

This attack on health workers is an attack on all Ontarians. Let’s be clear, though progress has been made, we’re not out of this pandemic. How can we expect those who take care of us to be at their best, when the government is at their throats.

Health care workers are occupied as it is without Doug Ford ambushing them on the side. When the Premier attacks them, he puts us all at risk.

Tell us what you think!

Every week we’ll be including a question for you. We want to hear about your thoughts on the issues we’re discussing. The top responses will then be included in next week’s newsletter.

What are your thoughts on the province’s re-opening? Are we moving too fast, too slow, or just right?

While you weren’t looking.

The over-looked news of the week.

  • A dispute erupted at a Valu-Mart in Minden, Ontario after a customer refused to put on a mask. The man allegedly assaulted someone, before leaving. The incident escalated when police followed the man to his house, where a gun-fight commenced. The man was shot and later pronounced dead at the hospital. 
  • Premier Doug Ford has commenced an 8-week summer tour across Ontario. Critics are calling it a campaign tour for his re-election, fearing that Ford will call a snap election to capitalize on his high approval ratings.
  • With Ontario’s state of emergency set to end on July 29, Ontario’s eviction ban is set to end as well. By then Doug Ford’s Bill 184 – which makes it easier for landlords to evict tenants –  could be law. The result? Come August, Ontarians could soon witness a wave of mass evictions.

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