PRHC clerical workers to rally Tuesday
247 unionized workers recently had their jobs re-evaluated, hospital spokesperson says
A rally against a wage freeze for clerical workers at Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC) is planned for outside the hospital at lunchtime on Tuesday.
Hospital spokesperson Michelene Ough wrote in an email that 247 unionized workers recently had their jobs re-evaluated.
Of those, Ough wrote:
• 33 will not see their wages change, as a result of the re-evaluation;
• 168 will have their wages frozen for three years;
• 46 will have their pay frozen beyond 2022 (it will be 2026 before they get a raise, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union has stated).
“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,” Ough writes.
The hospital aims to pay all employees – unionized or not – in a way that allows them to remain “competitive” when hiring, she adds.
OPSEU has pointed out that all but a few of the workers are women – and most are working parttime.
Warren “Smokey” Thomas, the provincial president for OPSEU, has said it’s not fair of the hospital to underpay its women workers.
But Ough points out in her email that 88 per cent of all employees at the hospital are women.
“This includes a senior leadership team that is 70 per cent female and a board of directors that is composed of 60 per cent women,” she wrote.
Thomas said he didn’t think that frees the hospital of its obligation to pay the clerks fairly.
“I find that kind of offensive – and I’m a man,” he said. “It’s not OK to freeze anyone’s wages. The CEO’s wages aren’t frozen.”
OPSEU pointed out in a fullpage ad in this newspaper on Saturday that the CEO had a 21 per cent pay raise in the last four years.
Dr. Peter McLaughlin, president and CEO of PRHC, was the highest-paid public sector bureaucrat in the city for the second consecutive year in 2017. He earned $379,999.42 in salary and $12,000 in taxable benefits in 2017.
Thomas said OPSEU’s executive for Ontario has been invited to the rally, and that the union will be taking out more media ads to try to “shame” the hospital into reversing its stance.
He also said the union would file grievances over the job reevaluations.
Ough wrote in a separate email in late November that the jobs had not been reviewed in “many years” and that in some cases the work had changed due to factors such as technology.
But Thomas says technology can make a job more complicated and require extra training – and that’s no reason to freeze wages.
He also said a wage freeze means an employee’s pay doesn’t keep up with inflation.
“So actually it’s a pay cut,” he said. “The cost of living goes up, right?”
The rally will start outside PRHC at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday.