Hospital workers continue fight against Bill 195

Hospital workers held their second rally in Fort Frances to oppose Bill 195 on August 29 in front of MPP Greg Rickford’s constituency office on 279 Scott St.
Under Bill 195, also known as the Reopening Ontario Act, healthcare employees can have their leaves of absences or vacations cancelled, can have their shifts changed from days to nights without prior notice, can be reassigned to another job or even get relocated to a different community.
Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, said hospital workers will fight to build the momentum needed to capture back their basic rights. “Mr. Rickford is a powerful member of this government,” Hurley said. “We’re here today to give Mr. Rickford a nudge and we are going to encourage him to tell his colleagues that they need to reconsider [Bill 195]. “The Progressive Conservative Ontario government led by Premier Doug Ford passed Bill 195 on July 21 and stated that it is a plan “for the continued safe and gradual reopening of the province.” Bill 195 was passed following the end of Ontario’s declaration of emergency on July 24.
However, Chris Giguere, an RPN and a CUPE 4807 hospital steward, said he believes that since the state of emergency is over, there is no need for the continued implementation of Bill 195.
“Today there are just 30 people with COVID-19 in Ontario’s 120 hospitals. The number of new cases has dropped to just over 100 a day. The number of long-term care homes in outbreak has fallen by two-thirds,” Giguere said.
“We have worked through this virus, despite shortages of protective equipment, to provide the best health care that we could for the people of this great province. Even though the government says the emergency is over, it is still giving our employers the power to change our shifts or require us to work overtime without notice or consultation.”
Hurley cited a poll that healthcare workers responded to. He said half of frontline caregivers reported that they did not live with their families during the COVID outbreak. “They live in their basements, they live in their garages, they live in their sheds and trailers because they are afraid to bring the virus to their families and they are afraid to bring the virus from their families to the people with immune compromised systems that they look after every day.”
Although no local hospitals workers have been negatively affected by Bill 195, it is not an excuse to stop the pushback, said Dana Vacek, who represents CUPE 87 Thunder Bay municipal workers.
“We have not really been affected by the impact of Bill 195, but I know a lot of our peers are not in the same position,” Vacek said. “Across the province, there are up 20,000 municipal workers still off work not knowing if they will ever go back to their jobs. We have heard from other communities where their employers have already started taking away their rights when it comes to shifts and not even communicating the changes to their union before they happen.”
Corrine Webb, president of CUPE Local 4807, they are going to campaign until their rights are restored no matter how long the fight takes.
“We have organized 26 rallies across Ontario, in conjunction with CUPE Ontario,” Webb said. “We will not stop campaigning until our rights are fully restored. I am confident that the love and compassion that healthcare workers have shown to the people of Ontario will be returned now when we need it.”