Why Health Care Workers Join Unions
Health care is one of the fastest growing industries in the province.
But, much of our health care system is seriously underfunded. And, while we wait for adequate money, it is the frontline workers who shoulder the most responsibility in providing care to patients.
UFCW Local 175 represents more than 5,000 health care providers across Ontario. You can read more about some of their ratified collective agreements here.
These 5,000 members work in long-term, community, and retirement care, assisted living and addiction treatment facilities, in-home care, youth and support services, and more. Plus, UFCW Local 175 represents Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers, firefighters, and dental hygienists.
Check out this feature on the amazing Union Members who work at Maplewood Long-Term Care Home in Brighton.
So, what are some of the benefits health care workers get from Joining a Union?
Better wages, benefits and working conditions
Unionized employees have the legal right to bargain with their employer to create a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). A CBA is a legally binding contract that outlines and guarantees wages, benefits, and other working conditions.
On average, Unionized employees make 30 – 35% more than non-Union employees in the same industry. Those better wages are a result of negotiating increases that, over time, add up to higher rates.
Unionized employees may negotiate for money in other ways too, such as:
- Pension plans,
- Guaranteed hours,
- Travel expenses,
- Clothing allowances, and;
- Shift premiums.
Health care workers have some of the highest rates of workplace injury in Ontario.
More and more often, frontline staff are forced to ‘work short.’ Working short means that there are not enough employees on shift to reasonably manage the workload. Even when short-staffed, health care workers often push themselves to do the work out of concern for their patients/residents. Those workers want to provide the best care they can. This can lead to burn out and injuries.
Injuries happen during patient handling, through exposure to biological or chemical hazards, and in incidents of violence. CBAs for health care workers can contain language for minimum staffing requirements, policies for outbreaks, standards for patient care, and more.
No one should have to choose between their safety and being able to fulfill their job duties properly. This is especially true for healthcare workers who look after our loved ones.
That’s why UFCW Locals 175 & 633 offers services related to workplace injuries and WSIB Appeals to every Member of the Union. Our Workers’ Compensation team of WSIB specialists can assist Members and guide them through the daunting WSIB appeals process.
Fairness, Accountability and Respect
“I want to have a voice at work.” Our Organizers hear this all the time from workers wanting to join our Union.
Many employers claim to have an ‘open door’ policy, but that only works if the boss listens to employees. Plus, many workers are afraid of discipline or being fired if they speak up.
Without a Union, the employer does not need a reason to fire someone. A Union contract contains Just Cause Protection. That means your boss has to have a justified reason to fire someone.
Plus, Union members have a grievance and arbitration procedure to deal with issues that can’t be resolved through discussion. Union Stewards and Health & Safety Reps in the workplace can help bring issues up with the employer as well.
Scheduling and Expectations
A trend in the health care industry – in community health care particularly – is a move from traditional full-time shifts to payment based on client visits. In visit-based work, employees do not receive paid travel time or adequate, if any, compensation for mileage or using their personal vehicle. As a result, it’s common that those employees have to work longer just to achieve a full eight-hour day.
The Union can negotiate policies to make sure the employer considers visit times, distance between clients, and other factors when scheduling. And, the Union can help ensure that existing employees receive enough hours through proper scheduling before the employer can hire more staff.
Quality Patient Care
Health care workers take pride in caring for others. Often, non-Union employers will try to tell employees that joining a Union will affect patient care in a negative way.
In fact, joining a Union can have a positive impact on patient care by:
- Ensuring employees receive proper training to keep themselves and patients safe.
- Providing adequate and accessible supplies for employees.
- Enhancing support for frontline staff through grievances, arbitration and more.
Happy employees tend to stick around and be more productive, which is better for everyone.
Plus, Unions are politically active. At UFCW Locals 175 & 633 we rally and lobby our government and advocate for good quality, affordable public health care.
So, why should health care workers join our Union?
- You gain power and a voice at work.
- You cannot be fired unless the employer can prove Just Cause.
- Your employer will have rules to follow.
- You will have a grievance and arbitration procedure to deal with issues formally.
- You can propose changes to your working conditions and participate in negotiations.
During a Union drive, the Ontario Labour Relations Act (OLRA) protects employees engaged in the Union drive against harassment, including being fired or disciplined, for their Union activity.
Find out more about how to become a Union member with UFCW Locals 175 & 633.
- Contact our Union Organizers! Ask questions and discuss your concerns. Your conversations with our Team are confidential.
- Sign a confidential UFCW Locals 175 & 633 Union card. Speak to your co-workers about signing a card too.
- Vote to have UFCW Locals 175 & 633 be Your Union.
- Participate in creating your first UFCW Locals 175 & 633 collective agreement. Elect a negotiating committee, make proposals, and most importantly, VOTE.
Our Team can answer your questions about how to join and what to expect. Your conversations with our Team are confidential.