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Hospital workers bucking for wage hike

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Union leaders representing hospital workers are calling on the Ontario Hospital Association to withdraw its request for a 20 percent wage rollback after revealing management in Toronto area hospitals received wage increases as high as 15 percent over the past two years.

Instead, they’re asking the province for a 10 percent wage increase over three years, and they want a negotiated—not arbitrated—settlement to their collective agreement, which expired in April, 1995.

As part of a province-wide informational picket yesterday, Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions of CUPE, and Adrianne Tetley, Canadian director of the Service Employees International Union, presented examples of what hospitals pay their administrators and what they pay front-line workers.

“Senior hospital managers increased their salaries by an average of $15,000 over two years from 1995 to 1997,” Hurley said yesterday, noting on average, hospital managers increased their salaries by an average of 12 percent over two years.

Salary information was obtained from the province’s published list of public servants earning more than $100,000.

Those figures weren’t available here. Donna Sobkowicz, president of CUPE Local 795 at La Verendrye hospital, noted management wages didn’t have to be shown because they weren’t over $100,000.

But Pat Giles, chairman of the board of Riverside Health Care Facilities Inc., revealed management here received the same raise the Ontario Nurses Association reached this past May—two percent retroactive to April 1, 1997.

That was the first increase management received since 1992 when they saw a one-percent increase.

Giles added a consultant’s report clearly showed that, proportionately, Riverside’s management has taken more cuts than front-line workers, including the elimination of one full-time position earlier this year.

Those CUPE and SEIU members earning less than $30,000 received a one percent wage increase in September and October, 1994. Before that, the last wage increase was in October, 1992.

Meanwhile, Sobkowicz noted the union will be holding a bargaining convention Oct. 19-20 in Toronto, and anticipated more information pickets would follow.

CUPE and SEIU, which represent 50,000 hospital workers, meet for negotiations with hospitals Oct. 22-23.

“We don’t want to arbitrate,” stressed Catherine Macleod with the SEIU communications department.

The unions joined forces two weeks ago in response to the Harris government’s appointment of four retired judges to replace arbitrators in their contract negotiations.

“We decided that the stakes were so high right now that we had to go as a united front,” Macleod noted.

CUPE and SEIU set up informational picket lines Oct. 6 to protest those appointments. But Nicole Daigneault, communications assistant to the Labour minister, noted last week the minister always has been able to appoint an arbitrator when the two sides couldn’t agree on one.

“And the system does currently work,” she added.

“Retired judges are fair, they’re independent, and they’re neutral,” Daigneault also said.

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