Peterborough Regional Health Centre to freeze wages for clerical staff: OPSEU

According to the union representing clerical staff at Peterborough Regional Health Centre, workers are finding out on Tuesday afternoon that they will see no pay increases for up to eight years.

There are 247 full- and part-time members of OPSEU Local 345, 245 of whom are women. The union says 244 of those members are being downgraded, meaning wage freezes for a period of five to eight years.

“We were given notice that the hospital would do a job evaluation for our membership during our bargaining in 2016,” said Dani Steenburgh, president of OPSEU Local 345. “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,” added Steenburgh.

The union says it’s in the second year of a five-year collective agreement with the hospital.

“I’m not sure if I’m angrier that they’re rigging job evaluations or that they’re doing it to hurt women who are already among their lowest-paid employees,” said OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas in a press release.  “Either way, it’s corrupt, it’s misogynistic and we’re going to stop it.”

“It’s disgusting. The bosses at this hospital are trying to cut costs on the backs of their most vulnerable workers,” said Eduardo Almedia, OPSEU first vice-president and treasurer. “Job evaluations are supposed to be fair and objective. But how fair and objective could they be when literally 99 per cent of them result in downgrades? This whole process stinks.”

A cancer care intake position at the health centre was evaluated three years ago and upgraded from a Grade 4 to a Grade 5 on its pay scale, however the employer is now downgrading the position to a Grade 3 and freezing those wages until 2026, stated the union.

“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 early Tuesday afternoon.

“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.

“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.”

The wage freeze will take effect on April 1.

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