Reinstate isolation pay so workers don't 'bear burden,' union tells Cambridge Memorial Hospital

The union for some of the workers has issued an open letter to the CEO of Cambridge Memorial Hospital that asks for reinstatement of isolation pay. The hospital says it offered that pay when directed by Ontario, but has reverted to collective agreements.

Hospital says it's following collective agreement, notes federal program exists

The exterior of a building.
SEIU Healthcare represents some workers at Cambridge Memorial Hospital. It's calling on the hospital to pay isolation pay. The hospital says it offered it when the province directed them to, but once that human resources recommendation was removed last summer, they reverted to what is in the collective agreement with the union. (Maeve Doyle/CBC)

A union that represents health-care workers is calling on Cambridge Memorial Hospital to pay workers who have to self-isolate during the pandemic.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU Healthcare) issued an open letter on Tuesday to the hospital's chief executive officer.

"Confronted with the third and most challenging wave of the pandemic, hospital workers continue to support our healthcare needs, despite fatigue and job-related uncertainties associated with COVID-19," said the letter signed by Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare.

"They apply themselves knowing the personal health risks and knowing they put loved ones at risk of suffering from the contagion. They should not also bear the burden of financial loss."

The hospital's director of human resources, Susan Toth, said that in the spring of 2020, Ontario Health had an human resources recommendation to pay staff who had to self-isolate during the pandemic. Toth said the province also provided money to help hospitals pay staff for that time off.

In the summer, the recommendation from Ontario Health was stopped. Toth said the hospital continued to pay employees who went into self-isolation for a short time, then reverted back to the collective agreements with workers' unions.

'Changing landscape' cited

Ontario Health has not issued any new recommendations for hospitals to pay for workers to go into isolation, she said.

On Wednesday, the province announced it would pay employers up to three days for employees who need to take sick days.

"We continue to abide by the changing landscape and follow what comes out from the province," Toth said. 

"In this case, it's more so we have a collective agreement that provides for certain benefits and entitlements, and in the absence of any other directive or policy, we revert to following our collective agreement."

Toth said if the union doesn't believe the hospital is following that agreement, there's a process through which a grievance can be filed, and it would go in front of an independent arbitrator.

She said there are also federal programs, including the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit for eligible workers, and in some cases, they can do their jobs from home.