Nurses in Stratford, Ont. protest 'wage suppression' bill
Nurses in Statford took their grievances with the Doug Ford government to the streets Thursday, protesting outside the constituency office of PC MPP Randy Pettapiece.
“It’s kind of a slap in the face from the government when they call us health care heroes,” said Rosanne Bedard, a nurse at Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance, and the bargaining unit president for Local 21 of the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA).
About 20 nurses and supporters demonstrated in a vacant parking lot on Lorne Avenue East for about two hours on Thursday. They were protesting Bill 124, which caps wage increases for public sector workers at one per cent.
The ONA contends the legislation is causing many nurses to leave the profession, leaving health centres short-staffed in a time of great need.
“We have the lowest nurse to population ratio in Canada,” said Bedard. “It is very difficult for employers to keep their staff and to hire, which then leads to emergency closures of departments. It leads to cancellations of surgeries, delayed surgeries, delayed care. It puts patients at risk.”
Public sector unions also argue the bill takes away their right to collective bargaining. The Ontario government has said Bill 124 is designed to protect public sector jobs and front-line services. The government has also said it’s only meant to be in place for three years.
A constitutional challenge from labour unions against Bill 124 is scheduled to be heard next September, just a few weeks before the legislation is set to expire.
Western University Labour Law professor Michael Lynk said the government could find itself on shaky ground both legally and politically.
“It may well be that we get a hearing, and we get a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada that will set new, more predictable parameters of what governments can and cannot do," he said.
"The political aspect of it is that the Ontario government has got a very upset public sector. When the Ontario government brought in Bill 124 two years ago it wasn’t expecting inflation to rocket the way it has or the pandemic to create such a strain on public services.”
Pettapiece was not in his Stratford office to observe the protest for himself. CTV News London requested an interview with the Perth-Wellington MPP, but the request went unanswered.