ONA Statement on Volunteering at Vaccination Clinics

December 23, 2021

ONA is aware of Premier Ford’s plea for volunteers to assist with staffing COVID-19 immunization clinics.

We have engaged with the government on numerous occasions when our members have been called on for various reasons during the pandemic and most recently related to the call for retirees to also staff COVID-19 clinics. We have consistently raised two issues: compensation and liability.

Please see the tweet below of what ONA posted on social media when our members were asked by the Premier to volunteer their time.

The above message was also posted on Facebook and continues to be shared, posted and retweeted with incredulous response from nurses and health-care professionals to the call from Premier Ford. In addition, ONA has not received a response from the government about compensation or liability.

ONA has grave concerns about any potential negative impact on our members volunteering on unpaid time in any circumstance given that they are placing their license to practice at risk when volunteering without the coverage that paid time worked provides – Legal Assistance, Malpractice Insurance, WSIB coverage and the terms and conditions of a collective agreement.

Premier Ford does not respect Collective Agreement rights as shown by Bill 124. In this call for volunteers, he is banking on the fact that many nurses, although exhausted, burnt out and disillusioned, will still step forward once again because its who nurses are and it is what we do.  But, enough is enough.

Please join us in sharing this statement and our social media posts and retweeting our message above. Messages can also be sent in email form to your MPP. Remind your colleagues that when they perform unpaid volunteer work, they are not protected by the very benefits that paid work and union membership provide for them, but they will be held accountable to the level of their registration if an error is made or an accident occurs at one of these clinics, including the potential exposure to the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

The dedication to the profession expressed by nurses and health-care professionals that is felt in every message ONA receives and is not lost on ONA; it echoes our thoughts and our messages to the Premier. Sadly, the Premier is not listening, he continues to frantically try to draw on your professionalism to push you beyond your breaking point with no end in sight.

ONA is also reaching out to employers to remind these employers that our members should be paid for all hours worked in an immunization clinic for the very reasons listed above. ONA reminds these employers that volunteering does not negate the fact that the Collective Agreement requires payment for time worked – it simply provides a list of individuals who have the time, and strength, to work a little bit more.

If your employer is distributing rapid antigen test kits in your workplace, you should advise them to issue the test kits to front-line staff as a priority to ensure staffing is in place for patient care. We want to avoid replicating the ‘Hunger Games’ approach to distribution in our workplaces as is happening in our communities.

Stay safe and stay strong.

In solidarity,

Cathryn Hoy, First Vice-President
Ontario Nurses’ Association