More than doctors and nurses: Health-care support workers say they deserve higher wages, too

Sherry Hillier, CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador president, says health care is not just 'doctors and nurses' but everyone who is pulling the weight in providing health services - therefore serves and support workers should also have wage increase.
Sherry Hillier, CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador president, says everyone who is pulling their weight in providing health services should have a wage increase. (Submitted by Sherry Hillier)

Support and service employees working behind the scenes in Newfoundland and Labrador's health-care system say they feel "left behind" after other workers have received wage increases.

Since last year, the Newfoundland and Labrador Registered Nurses' union and the Association of Allied Health Professionals signed contracts with the government that provided them with higher pay.

But employees who provide administrative work — like the clerk who checks patients in or the cleaner who does the laundry — were not included in those deals, says Sherry Hillier, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees in the province.

"They are a vital part of health care and they are forgotten about," she said in an interview.

About 1,400 workers agree with that statetement, and have added their signatures to a CUPE petition "demanding the Furey government meet to discuss ongoing recruitment and retention issues."

In an interview this week with Newfoundland Morning, she described a single mother in Corner Brook who works as a housekeeper in a long-term-care facility. By the time her paycheque comes around, there is barely enough to pay the bills.

CBC News asked Treasury Board for a response. In a statement, spokesperson Victoria Barbour said government does "recognize and value the outstanding work of all health-care workers, including support and service staff."

She added the department spoke with the union this week, and is open to discuss the union's concerns.

Hillier, who has worked as a licensed practical nurse for years, says health care is assembled not just by doctors and nurses.

"I know a lot of people think that's all [there] is in health care, it's doctors and nurses, but it's not. It's all health-care workers," Hillier said.

"Without a team, hospitals and long-term care facilities do not operate."

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