Tale of Two Sectors
/ Author: Ian DeWaard
/ Categories: Guide magazine /
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Tale of Two Sectors

Despite recent gains, Ontario's healthcare sector is still a work in progress while construction in the province is booming

By Ian DeWaard, Ontario Director

To be vaccinated or not was a big decision many Ontario healthcare members faced during the last 16 months. About five percent remained vaccine hesitant even after employers rolled out mandatory vaccine policies, leading CLAC to file many unjust termination grievances.

At an arbitration hearing in March (CLAC v. Revera), we argued that employers lacked just cause for terminating unvaccinated members because other reasonable alternatives (temporary administrative leaves, routine testing) were available. This case, which was still awaiting a decision at press time, will likely be the first among many and set a strong precedent.

During the pandemic, the Ontario government provided a temporary $2 to $3 per hour wage premium for personal and disability support workers (PSWs and DSWs). I’m pleased to report that after effective lobbying by CLAC and others, the province has made the premium permanent, providing long overdue relief for members who have seen their wages suppressed by wage caps and freezes for most of the last 13 years.

But the victory is contentious because it leaves behind many other healthcare classifications, such as RPNs and aides, who received no adjustment. Many of these employees remain subject to a three-year, one-percent annual wage freeze imposed by the government. We continue to pressure the province to provide a meaningful wage adjustment for these members too.

We were invited to join the minister of long-term care’s Strategic Advisory Table, which was charged with advising on regulations connected to Ontario’s new Fixing Long-term Care Act. With insight from members, we submitted recommendations focused on giving front-line workers greater influence in care delivery.

CLAC has long advocated extending Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) protection to members working in retirement homes. Recently, we launched a targeted media and letter-writing campaign, which generated more than 700 letters. We also met with WSIB’s new CEO to provide feedback on the positive and negative experiences members have with WSIB.

Construction Heats Up

Ontario’s construction market is hot and growing hotter, and the CLAC Jobs Team has had great success helping members find their next job. In 2021, the team helped nearly 300 people land a construction job.

In 2022, the CLAC Training and Apprenticeship teams are working on several new initiatives—the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, Construction Bootcamp, and Supervisor Micro-Certification Program—to attract and support new construction workers.

Some 40 collective agreements are up for renewal in the first half of the year, including trendsetting agreements in the ready-mix concrete sector. The jump in cost of living and ever-growing shortage of workers will have a significant impact on bargaining.

In February, CLAC made a presentation to the Region of Waterloo Ad Hoc Community Benefits Procurement Committee, which is considering implementing community benefits agreements (CBAs), or social procurement policies, for public construction projects. We support CBAs but they can take many different forms, and some have unintended, expensive, and unfair consequences.

We provided advice on how to build a better social procurement policy aimed at supporting youth and underrepresented workers hoping for a construction career, and the region has adopted some of our ideas. If approved, the policy will provide a good model for other municipalities.

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