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‘Essential and excluded:’ Healthcare workers rally in region for pandemic pay
KITCHENER -- Healthcare workers across Waterloo Region were protesting for pandemic pay to be given to all frontline workers.
Some of the workers out on Friday afternoon say they feel “essential and excluded” by the Ontario government.
“We are exposed to COVID-19 on a daily basis,” said Trina Bueckert, a medical lab technician. “I’m going into rooms with positive patients on a daily basis.
“To not be included is kind of a kick in the gut.”
Hundreds were outside Grand River Hospital demanding the Ford government add more healthcare works to the four dollar per house raise that was introduced in April.
“To be excluded just made me feel not respected,” said Jennifer Johnston, an occupational therapist. “I’m not part of a team and the care I’ve been providing to these patients has been undervalued.”
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union says about one third of hospital staff are not included in pandemic pay.
This includes areas like the laboratory, pharmacy, diagnostic imaging technologists, physiotherapists, and more.
“The Premier of Ontario, he’s literally put a dollar value on some professions, saying they are worth another four dollars an hour, and has excluded other profession,” said Tania Bowser, the local executive member of the OPSEU unit.
Some workers say it’s not about they money, but about getting recognition and appreciate from the province.
“I just think it should be for all or for none,” said Kathleen Wallace, a medical radiation technologist.
In a statement to CTV News, the province says they wish they could provide pandemic pay to every frontline worker.
They add that there is a limit to the amount of funding provided by the federal government and they are unable to expand the pandemic pay beyond the 375,000 employees already deemed eligible.
“To implement this kind of premium, the intention was good, but it’s fallen short,” said Kelly Bartlett, the local president of the OPSEU unit. “To leave one group behind, simply to say we've run out of money, it simply not good enough. We expect better”
Workers say they will continue to provide patient care with or without pandemic pay.