Thousands of orderlies file grievances against Montreal health authority, alleging racism

Thousands of grievances have been filed against the central-south Montreal health authority—all by orderlies who want to bring to wider attention the racism they say they face at work.

Marie Ngo Hott is one. The orderly at the Montreal Geriatric Institute says almost all her colleagues are Black and that they’re treated with little respect.

“We should just be happy that we’ve gotten to come here to Canada,” is the attitude she often hears, she said.

The orderlies’ union says it’s time to address the problem, which it says is a perfect example of systemic racism, the concept much discussed in Quebec recently.

More than 80 per cent of people hired to be orderlies are immigrant women, and they’re paid very poorly and given little chance to advance, says the CSN union.

“We believe they are underpaid because they are women and they are black. It's as simple as that,” said Alain Croteau of the union.

The advocacy group CRARR is also helping with the mass grievances.

“We are not accusing anyone of bad faith and bad intention,” said the group’s director, Fo Niemi.

“We are saying the system, the way it is produces inequities in terms of hiring, promotion job mobility, work conditions, particularly the salaries, particularly of those people who hold the positions of préposé aux beneficiaires.”

His argument is also simple, he says: if most orderlies were white men, working conditions would be a lot better.

The spokesperson for the health authority, however, denies this. He says the region takes diversity and inclusion extremely seriously, pointing to the fact that 20 per cent of its managers are from minority communities.

“Over the course of the last few weeks, months, and years we have put in place a series of initiatives to be sure that we don't discriminate,” said Jean Nicolas Aubé, the spokesperson.

“And even though we have all of these in place, if more is needed, we will do it. We're always looking to improve and do better.”

The union does believe improvement is needed, it says, and it hopes its effort will help achieve that.

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