CUPE plans rally at St. Michael’s Hospital, calls employer ‘Scrooge’

The emergency department at St. Michael's Hospital located at the corner of Shuter and Victoria Sts. in downtownToronto, is photographed on Oct 20 2016. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

A union vying to represent clerical workers at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital is holding a rally on Tuesday to speak out against what it’s calling a “Scrooge-like” employer.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) says thousands of staff are being affected by restructuring as St. Mike’s merges with two other Catholic hospitals in the city, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and Providence Healthcare.

“There’s a process to deal with the question of unionization,” Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, said on The John Oakley Show on Friday. “We have a union drive, CUPE does, for the clerical staff at St. Mike’s, and there have been some problems with the hospital in the last month or so which are pretty serious,” he said.

The rally poster shows a photo of Scrooge and claims the hospital is “treating its employees badly.”

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CUPE says several long-term employees have been terminated — four clerical workers and a chaplain with 20 years experience — and that aggressive tactics are being used to force staff to sign agreements to work excess hours up to 10 days in a row.

“From my perspective, in advance of having to deal with a union, St. Mike’s is restructuring in a very aggressive way,” Hurley said.

LISTEN: Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, joins the Oakley Show

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The union currently represents 1,600 staffers at the hospital network, including nurses, administrative and clerical staff, personal support workers, porters and cleaners.

As a result of the merger, which took place on Aug. 1, non-union employees, including 700 clerical workers at St. Mike’s, will be able to decide whether they want to unionize.

The Ontario Labour Relations Board will also be considering applications to reconfigure the various bargaining units across the hospitals under the Public Sector Labour Relations Transitions Act.

In a statement to 640 Toronto, a spokesperson for St. Michael’s said the hospital network is following the provisions of that act and noted that several unions are competing to represent employees at all three sites.

“As a health-care employer, we know that our employees are our most important asset in helping to provide quality care for our patients and we respect their rights as employees,” the spokesperson stated.

Local hospital employees represented by CUPE will be gathering at the corner of Queen Street East and Bond Street at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

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