Home Workplace News Clerical staff, union, push William Osler for fair pay

Clerical staff, union, push William Osler for fair pay

by Local Journalism Initiative
By Hafsa Ahmed | The Pointer

A petition created on February 9 demanding fair retroactive pay increases for clerical staff at William Osler Health Systems has garnered nearly 1,100 signatures, but it remains unclear if these crucial workers who are essential to keeping hospitals and healthcare facilities functional will have their call answered. 

On February 23, the Government of Ontario put out a brief press release, noting it has officially “repealed Bill 124 in its entirety through an Order in Council, as was permitted through the legislation.”

The controversial Bill 124, the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, put a cap on increases to compensation for public sector workers, limiting raises to one percent per year for three years. Enacted in 2019, criticism grew the following year when the COVID-19 pandemic took over the globe, putting unprecedented strain on many working in the public sector, particularly those in healthcare. The cap affected unionized workers as well, but an appeal confirmed Bill 124 violated their right to collective bargaining and the Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled it unconstitutional. 

The petition asks “that all clerical staff at William Osler Health Systems receive fair retroactive pay immediately.”

Brandon Dawe, Business Agent for Teamsters Local Union 419, which represents clerical workers at Osler, told The Pointer the Bill 124 retroactive percentage Osler agreed to pay to the William Osler Clerical Group was 1.4 percent and said, “as the union we feel that’s not enough.” He said this offer dates back to the summer of 2020 and the union has since requested similar pay increases to those provided to other groups, but has been denied. He said it has since filed a grievance regarding the denial from Osler and is pursuing the arbitration process.

“We just wanna be treated the same as everyone else,” he said, noting other groups have been awarded percentages like 2.5 and 3.5 percent in respective years.

“The clerical bargaining unit has been underpaid and undervalued and understaffed for a long time,” he said. “We just want the same treatment. We just want what’s fair.” 

“I am one of over 700 clerical staff members at William Osler Health Systems who are struggling daily due to the rising cost of living and our current unfair pay,” writes Clara Cilurzo, the organizer of the petition. “Our wages have not kept pace with inflation, making it increasingly difficult for us to meet our basic needs. This is not just about money; it’s about dignity, respect, and fairness in the workplace.”

She states salaries of clerical workers at Osler “have remained stagnant” as a result of Bill 124, leading to a “real decrease in our purchasing power and overall standard of living.”

Dawe explained that the wage scale of clerical workers at Osler can fluctuate “substantially” based on a number of factors, including the number of different classifications a staff member has and a graduated pay scale depending on the number of years of service.

He said that at the low end of the scale, clerical staff would receive about $23.41/hr, and the high end would be $33.11/hr, as of October 2023. He noted the majority of their wages are around 25-26$/hr. 

From 2017 to 2019 clerical workers’ pay increased 1 percent for each year. In 2020, they received a 1.65 percent wage increase and from 2021-2023 were given 3 percent for each year, Dawe said. 

The 1.4 percent retroactive pay Osler agreed to provide for 2017, 2018 and 2019 is not acceptable to the workers or the union, he said. “Our membership fully disagrees with the amount and we support them in this fight 100 [percent],” he said. 

“We believe that everyone deserves fair compensation for their work and that no one should struggle to make ends meet because their salary does not keep up with the cost of living,” Cilurzo writes. 

One signatory of the petition commented that they have been working at William Osler for 21 years, but haven’t received a “significant raise in over a decade.” 

Dawe highlighted how Osler’s hospitals are some of the busiest in the province and had some of the highest patient volumes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Osler’s clerical staff “haven’t been valued accordingly,” before or after the pandemic.

“We want that to change,” he said, saying William Osler has an opportunity to show it appreciates its clerical staff who have dedicated years of their lives, decades in some cases, to the health system. 

In response to questions from The Pointer, Osler stated in an email, “[W]e recognize and respect the hard work and dedication of all Osler staff, physicians and volunteers.”

“Osler respects the right of individuals to initiate petitions and express views,” it stated. “We value our collaborative and constructive relationship with all unions at Osler, which is built on mutual respect, trust and a commitment to maintaining an open dialogue while continuing to provide excellent care to the communities we serve.”

The spokesperson would not comment on the ongoing negotiations and whether Osler is willing to provide the pay increase these workers are seeking.

“We can confirm that Osler operates in alignment with relevant legislation and all wage increases are negotiated with the applicable trade union. We continue to work with Teamster representatives on issues raised.”

Dawe said the union will continue to advocate for these workers and to raise awareness of their inadequate pay. 

“We are valuable members of the [healthcare] team, supporting clinical services and physicians who provide [healthcare] to community members,” a signatory of the petition commented. Another wrote, “Osler clerical employees work hard and deserve to be paid the same as other hospitals.”

Doctors in the province recently secured a compensation increase of 2.8 percent. 

A week after the repeal of Bill 124, the Province announced it reached an agreement with the Ontario Medical Association “on the implementation of the final year of the current physician services agreement (PSA),” with the compensation increase applicable in 2023-24 for services provided through the publicly funded healthcare system. They have also agreed to “an expedited arbitration of the first year of the next PSA, which will provide clarity for physicians in 2024-25.” 

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