December 10, 2018 1:43 pm
Updated: December 11, 2018 2:19 pm

OPSEU holds rally over clerical worker wage freeze at Peterborough Regional Health Centre

A few hundred union members show support for clerical workers after a wage freeze at PRHC.

A few hundred union members show support for clerical workers after a wage freeze at PRHC.

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A job evaluation for clerical workers at Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC) that led to a wage freeze for several employees is now the subject of a bargaining complaint by OPSEU to the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

Last month, Global Peterborough reported 244 of 247 clerical workers at the hospital had been downgraded, leading to a wage freeze for some of up to eight years.

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“In September, an arbitrator ruled the members of OPSEU Local 345 deserve a contract that includes reasonable wage increases over five years,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “But it’s clear now that management never intended to honour the arbitrator’s ruling. They’re trying to use a secretive and suspect job evaluation process to weasel out of the contract.”

READ MORE: Peterborough Regional Health Centre to freeze wages for clerical staff

“We were given notice that the hospital would do a job evaluation for our membership during our bargaining in 2016,” Dani Steenburgh, president of OPSEU Local 345, told Global Peterborough on Nov. 27. “We’re worried for our membership. This could negatively impact our members, their families and friends in the community.”

“We’ve had two meetings with human resources and (the) job evaluation committee. We have given them a grievance form. They are aware we are grieving this process,” Steenburgh said.

OPSEU is also pointing to the fact that 98 per cent of clerical workers at PRHC are women.

“This is an attack on women, pure and simple,” Eduardo Almeida, OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer said. “OPSEU Local 345 is 98 per cent women, and it’s the only local at the hospital that’s being targeted with a wage freeze.

READ MORE: Province provides nearly $7M to tackle wait times at Peterborough Regional Health Centre

“It is worth noting that 88 per cent of employees at the hospital are women,” Michelene Ough, hospital spokesperson said in a statement.  “This includes a senior leadership team that is more than 70% female and a Board of Directors that is composed of 60% women.”

The union and hospital are in the second year of a five-year collective agreement.

“I would also like to clarify that of the 247 clerks at the hospital, 168 (68%) will begin seeing wage increases again in three years, and 33 (13.4%) will not see their wages change at all as a result of this position review.  “Forty-six (18.6%) will have their pay frozen beyond 2022,” said Ough.

“Earlier this year, a job evaluation committee was established to objectively review all OPSEU clerical positions at the hospital,” PRHC wrote in a statement to Global News on Nov. 27.

“A broad review of these positions had not been done for many years, and many of these jobs have changed significantly in that time, due to factors such as technology improvements, education and experience requirements, and other changes in the work for these roles.”

“A review of this kind is done to ensure equity between position types, and each position is looked at in light of many changes over time and assessed against an established evaluation tool,” the statement continues.

READ MORE: Proposed hospital integration for Peterborough and Lindsay dropped

“As a regional acute care centre, our policy is to compensate all of our union and non-union employees in a way that allows us to remain competitive in recruiting skilled people. We understand that this might be difficult for some of our staff, and we have made resources available to support them through this change.”

“While the change in the rate of pay is effective immediately for new hires, the hospital has provided until April 1, 2019 for existing employees to move into other clerical positions within the hospital – should they choose to do so – at their current rate of pay,” added Ough.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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