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COVID-19: Ontario Announces New Emergency Order Allowing Health Service Providers to Override Collective Agreement Obligations

On March 21, 2020, the Ontario government announced a new order under the declaration of emergency to give designated health service providers the ability to cancel and postpone services to free-up space and valuable staff, identify staffing priorities, and develop, modify and implement redeployment plans to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The order applies to provide-wide health service providers as defined by paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 of subsection 1 (2) of the Connecting Care Act, 2019. This includes:

  • A person or entity that operates a hospital within the meaning of the Public Hospitals Act or a private hospital within the meaning of the Private Hospitals Act;
  • A person or entity that operates a psychiatric facility within the meaning of the Mental Health Act, with certain exceptions for correctional institutions, prisons, and penitentiaries; and,
  • The University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

Under this temporary order, health service providers will be able to respond to, prevent and alleviate an outbreak of COVID-19 by carrying out measures such as:

  • Redeploying staff within different locations in (or between) facilities of the hospital;
  • Redeploying staff to work in COVID-19 assessment centres;
  • Changing the assignment of work, including assigning non-bargaining unit employees or contractors to perform bargaining unit work;
  • Changing the scheduling of work or shift assignments;
  • Deferring or cancelling vacations, absences or other leaves, regardless of whether such vacations, absences or leaves are established by statute, regulation, agreement or otherwise;
  • Employing extra part-time or temporary staff or contractors, including for the purpose of performing bargaining unit work;
  • Using volunteers to perform work, including to perform bargaining work; and
  • Providing appropriate training or education as needed to staff and volunteers to achieve the purposes of a redeployment plan.

When utilized by health service providers, these redeployment plans temporarily supersede the provisions of a collective agreement, including lay-off, seniority/service or bumping provisions to allow for the effective redeployment of staff to combat COVID-19. A health service provider would ordinarily be required to abide by the terms of any applicable collective agreement before being able to move a unionized employee from her current posting to a COVID-19 assessment centre, for example. Typically, this involves posting a layoff notice and waiting a specified period of time before completing the transfer. By eliminating these requirements, health service providers are empowered to act decisively in the face of our current public health crisis.

In accordance with the new order, health service providers may:

  • Conduct any skills and experience inventories of staff to identify possible alternative roles in priority areas;
  • Require and collect information from staff or contractors about their availability to provide services for the health service provider;
  • Require the provision of and collect information from staff or contractors about their likely or actual exposure to the Virus, or about any other health conditions that may affect their ability to provide services;
  • Cancel or postpone services that are not related to responding to, preventing or alleviating the outbreak of the Virus; and,
  • Suspend, for the duration of this Order, any grievance process with respect to any matter referred to in this Order

This order is valid for 14 days unless revoked or renewed in accordance with the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

You can read the full press release here.

If you have any questions or concerns about these measures or other challenges related to COVID-19, the expert team at CCPartners is here to help. CCPartners will continue to monitor the situation in Ontario and every other Canadian jurisdiction and continue to post updates to its COVID-19 blogs as they arise.




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