CAW Prepares for 2009 Negotiations in Hospital Sector

January 12, 2009, 2:25 PM EST

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A group of 65 CAW rank and file members, national and local leadership, met late last week in Toronto to prepare for collective bargaining in the hospital sector in 2009. The union will proceed simultaneously at several major bargaining tables with the goal of achieving a fair and reasonable settlement.

The meeting consisted of hospital bargaining committee members and elected local leadership from seven CAW locals throughout Ontario representing 10,000 hospital workers. Local unions will be engaged in negotiations with local hospitals including in southern Ontario at larger urban centres such as Windsor, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Belleville and Thunder Bay as well as communities such as Simcoe, Tillsonburg, Ingersoll, Fergus, Trenton, Picton, Exeter, or Leamington.  

Collective agreements covering 5,000 CAW members expire March 31, 2009 and a further 2,000 by October, 2009 including in northern Ontario CAW hospital members from Atikokan, Nipigon, Wawa, Marathon, Elliot Lake, Manitouwadge, Geraldton and Thunder Bay that negotiate at a joint regional table representing over 1,600 hospital workers. 

CAW National President Ken Lewenza addressed the meeting, stressing the importance of both determination and resolve to represent the best interests of members.  The meeting concluded with the resolution to ensure a fair and equitable settlement for these hospital nursing and support staff members; at least consistent with that attained by others in the hospital sector. 

While the union recognizes the challenges being faced in Ontario, the response from the government must come in the form of a stimulus, he said. "We need to maintain and enhance services, not cut our way out of this crisis and that is the approach we will be taking to the bargaining table this year in the hospital sector.  A laid-off hospital worker isn't much help to communities that deserve quality care in their hospitals," said Lewenza.   

An unprecedented level of support by the CAW was also committed to the upcoming Ontario Health Coalition campaign to draw public attention to the vital importance of hospital services and the immediate threat of under-funding and hospital lay-offs.  

"The planned funding from the province is simply inadequate to maintain important hospital services in smaller community hospitals which threaten lay-off and service changes that will directly affect access throughout the province.  These are cutbacks in no uncertain terms," said Nancy McMurphy, CAW National Executive Board member and President of CAW Local 302 representing health sector workers in London-Kitchener area.

"As a local president representing both hospital workers and manufacturing workers, it is vital that workers not fall into the trap of blaming each other for the economic and financial crisis we face, said Tim Carrie, National Executive Board member, President CAW Local 27 in London and President of the CAW Council. "The recession wasn't caused by either private sector auto workers or public sector hospital workers, and neither group should be forced to shoulder the full brunt of the crisis."

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