|SENDING A MESSAGE: Huntsville Hospital employee Marion Savory and Ontario Public Sector Employee Uni
By Bruce Hickey
Close to 30 Huntsville Hospital employees, among them lab and ultrasound technicians, walked a rotating, lunch-break picketline Thursday to express mounting frustration over working conditions.
Ontario Public Sector Employees Union members took part in the information picket, a province-wide initiative staged by disgruntled workers at 41 Ontario hospitals.
The workers, all deemed essential and unable to legally strike, have been without a contract since March 31. Talks have been dealt with collectively at the provincial level.
It has been a month since the union polled its membership on escalating job action to gain bargaining leverage. The employees responded strongly in favour. Last weeks picket was the strongest action taken to date by the Huntsville employees.
Spokesperson for the local employee group, Marion Savory, said any job action is done with the knowledge that if there is an emergency, the employees will return to work.
Were demonstrating this week to inform the public of what we do and that we need huge improvements in our contract so that we can attract people to our professions to work in Ontario hospitals, she said.
Patient care is already suffering because there are too few of us. We are rushed, exhausted and under enormous pressure knowing that patients well-being is at stake.
Algonquin Health Services CEO Vaughn Adamson said the union employees asked if they could hold the information picket on hospital property.
We suggested we did not have a problem with them doing it. They showed us the material they were going to be handing out and they requested permission to do it on the hospital property. We approved that and I understand it unfolded without incident, said Adamson.
More and more the union employees are not taking on over-time hours and are refusing call-backs. They are also taking scheduled coffee and lunch breaks, instead of working straight through.
We have a collective agreement that entitles us to a meal break and many of us cannot take our breaks because we are too busy, said Savory, who works in the laboratory.
It is not the same as leaving the work at my desk unfinished and returning later to pick up where I left off. I am leaving a patient at my desk, a human being that is waiting for me to finish my work so that I can pass the information on to the doctor, who in turn can pass the information on to the patient.
Adamson said she is aware that employees could be refusing overtime hours and call-backs, but has not had any reports of patient care being compromised.
I have not had reported to me any concerns from our managers that [refusing overtime and call-backs] is creating any difficulty or problems with services to people.
The fact that employees are being requested to work additional hours is well known to Adamson.
That is the situation that we are working with at the hospital and have been for some time. It exacerbates in the summer and holiday seasons where we really struggle to make sure that we have the right number of staff to look after all of our departments around the clock, she said.