Unions want COVID-19 campaign funds to go to workers left out of pandemic pay-bump
LONDON, ONT. -- Unions representing thousands of employees at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) are calling on the hospital and its foundation to direct campaign funds to health care workers who don’t qualify for pandemic pay.
“Everyone who works in health care works really hard and right now they are working harder than they have in the past,” said Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) Local 100 President James Murray. “It’s concerning to us that several of our colleagues have been excluded from the list for the temporary pandemic pay top-up.”
In an open letter to LHSC CEO Paul Woods and LHSC Foundation CEO John MacFarlane, leaders of five union locals, including ONA, are calling for money raised in the foundation’s COVID-19 campaign to go to top up the pay of those workers who do not qualify for the temporary $4 per hour increase from the province.
“The disparity created by the exclusion of many of our front-line colleagues from receiving the temporary pandemic pay has left them feeling under-appreciated by the province,” said the letter.
Murray said he believes more than $500,000 has been raised in the campaign.
He said the unions were asked to come up with input on how the money should be dispersed, and while they had other ideas at first, they now believe it’s only fair that their colleagues should receive the top-up. They’e also asking that any shortfall be covered by the hospital.
It’s a subject that hits close to home for Ashley Davy, who works directly with patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.
An assistant lab technician at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, she has been lobbying her MPP, Jeff Yurek, to have her job added to the list of those that qualify for the pay bump.
“We are often left out of a lot of things, we are in the background, but if you take away a lab from a lot of things, you know hospital, public health professionals in larger hospitals, you don’t have those answers. You don’t know if a patient has tested positive for COVID or another illness, so it’s very insulting.”
In the meantime, many who do qualify for the increase still haven’t seen the money. The province was expected to send out funding details this week.
Peter Bergmanis, the vice president of health care for UNIFOR Local 27, said so far there has been a great deal of confusion.
“To date we have learned most hospitals in the province have not been provided the funding for the pandemic pay increase, and they have been taking a wait-and-see approach until they know that the government’s going to provide that money in the bank.”
A provincial Treasury Board spokesperson told CTV News in a statement that funding to employers will now begin June 8.
The statement from Sebastian Skamski also said Premier Doug Ford wishes every front-line worker could receive pandemic pay.
“Unfortunately, there is a limit to the amount of funding provided by the federal government through our shared agreement and we are not able to expand the pandemic pay program beyond the over 375,000 employees already deemed eligible.”