'Heroes' of pandemic rally in Charlottetown for better pay
At the height of the pandemic they were called heroes — front-line workers in health, education and other sectors who worked under difficult circumstances to help keep their communities running.
On Saturday, more than 100 of them rallied at Confederation Landing Park in Charlottetown to demand more than just a pat on the back.
"They want fair wages," said Leonard Gallant, president of CUPE Prince Edward Island.
"They want to be able to stay on Prince Edward Island."
P.E.I. has had the highest rate of inflation in the country for several months. Gallant said wages need to be better for people like paramedics and other front-line health care workers, as well as cleaners and others who work in the education system.
"People are just going backward," Gallant said. "One or two per cent wage increases is not cutting it. We need wages above inflation."
Mark Hancock, the national president of CUPE, said it is heartbreaking to see how governments and employers are reacting at bargaining tables and "refusing to pay those heroes wages that'll actually help sustain themselves and their families."
"Whether in long-term care or whether it's in hospitals or schools, these are the people we rely on to look after our parents, look after our kids in the case of schools, to look after the most vulnerable, and the fact that they don't make enough money, that they have to take that second job, that third job, just to support their families, it breaks my heart."
The union leaders said with the provincial election on Monday, now is the time to be heard.
"The government of the day on Tuesday needs to start meeting with the union workers," Gallant said. "They need to have meaningful discussions."