Health care workers in Sudbury rally in front of HSN

Nurses and hospital staff in Sudbury who are upset with limits put in place on salary increases held a rally Tuesday afternoon in front of Health Sciences North.

Nurses at Health Sciences North joined other health care workers and union leaders to voice their concerns about Bill 124, which was introduced by the Ford government in 2019.

It caps public sector raises at one per cent.

"I came out here to support the nurses and to, hopefully, repeal Bill 124 and get CUPE back at the bargaining table with HSN for a fair settlement," said Kelsey Shannon, RPN at HSN.

Officials with the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions said retaining health care workers is becoming a real struggle.

"People are leaving their occupations and they’re retiring, they’re going to other jobs and this is going to be a problem now and in the future,” said Sharon Richer, secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions of CUPE.

"People are going to see longer wait times when they’re in emerg, they’re going to see surgeries and diagnostics cancelled or postponed because there’s just nobody there to take care of them."

Richer said Bill 124 is part of the problem. When inflation is factored in, workers are looking at pay reductions.

"It doesn’t allow us to negotiate more than a one per cent wage increase when we’re seeing inflation at an all-time high," she said.

That's not fair to workers who helped Ontarians through the COVID-19 pandemic, said Yolanda McClean, secretary-treasurer with CUPE Ontario.

“They have given their blood, sweat, tears to all of this work," McClean said.

"They have not only come to work every single day, they’ve worked overtime … It’s really too bad that the government doesn’t realize the importance of all the work they have done.”

The Ministry of Health responded to the protest in a statement to CTV News:

"The Act enables three-year moderation periods on compensation increases, but it does not impose a wage freeze, rollback or job cuts. Ontario’s public sector employees are still able to receive salary increases for seniority, performance, or increased qualifications.”

Officials with CUPE said rallies will continue around the province.