Sault hospital workers picket to press for new collective agreement
Some Sault Area Hospital workers who have been without a collective agreement for more than a year and a half were on the picket line Wednesday.
Unifor Local 1359 represents 15 staff, including dispatch, electricians, and maintenance at the hospital that are employed by EllisDon Facilities.
The union held an information picket outside the hospital's main entrance, hoping to gain community support as the workers aren't legally allowed to strike.
Unifor 1359 President Cathy Humalamaki said wages are a huge issue. The two sides have been negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement since July 2022.
Humalamaki said EllisDon refuses to budge on a pay increase of one per cent.
She said the company is acting as if the workers fall under Bill 124, which prevents the increase of hospital staff wages above one per cent.
But the staff are not health care workers, she said, and the bill does not apply to them.
“EllisDon should not be hiding behind Bill 124 that was put out for hospital workers,” Humalamaki said.
“Bill 124 has already been deemed unconstitutional and we still continue that fight with our hospital workers. But our maintenance guys shouldn’t even be under that umbrella.”
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She said pay for those staff is well below industry standards, making it difficult to attract and retain employees.
For example, Humalamaki said when the hospital lost two plumbers, some of those responsibilities were pushed to untrained workers.
"They're expecting our maintenance to do the work of a skilled trade," she said.
In an email to CTV News, EllisDon denied the union’s accusation that it wants arbitration instead of negotiation.
"Our attempts to contact the Local (1359) since early last week have gone unanswered," the email said, adding that the company "remains committed to the bargaining process."
Company officials did not comment on the one per cent wage increase or its connection to Bill 124.
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