Important Update

Sent June 14, 2021

Dear Colleague,

I have the honour of telling you some wonderful news. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, PARO has been acutely aware of how our members have stepped up to provide 24/7 coverage, often putting themselves and their families at risk in the service of others. We have worked around the clock to deal with the myriad issues that have arisen to ensure to the best of our ability that your well-being, working conditions and education was optimized. We have had many successes and have built enduring partnerships that will positively affect resident training and the way we work, and are taught and examined, that will last beyond the pandemic.

When pandemic pay was announced by the Ontario Government, we were shocked that our members were not on the list. We mobilized countless allies who wrote the Government advocating on our behalf, including our employer, the Ontario Teaching Hospitals. We pursued every conceivable route to help the Government understand the critical role that residents play in our healthcare system. So, we reached out to our members as part of our Forgotten on the Front Lines initiative to gather your stories about the impact of the pandemic on your professional and personal lives.

We were determined to not give up and as we entered the recent round of negotiations, knowing that we were limited by Bill 124 to a maximum of 1% per year for three years, we searched for a way to make the request for pandemic pay. Thanks to the diligence and brilliance of our legal team and an exhaustive review of the flurry of Government regulations during the pandemic, we believed that we had found the legislative framework to make the legal case for our much-deserved pandemic pay.

During our recent negotiations we were able to reach agreement on every issue with the exception of pandemic pay. As a result, we took this sole issue to Arbitration. Both sides met with the Arbitrator on the evening of Thursday June 10th. We advanced a compelling narrative filled with stories of the extraordinary commitment of our members and the degree to which we have all stepped up during the pandemic. We presented data on the number and intensity of hours that residents have worked and the need for us to be redeployed to meet the needs of the initial wave, the second wave and the third wave of this pandemic. And, we presented our compelling legal argument that we felt created the ability for the Arbitrator to have jurisdiction on this issue and award pandemic pay despite that exceeding the 1% compensation cap imposed by Bill 124 that otherwise restrained the rest of our contract negotiations.

A few hours ago, Mr. William Kaplan, one of Ontario’s most respected Arbitrators, released his decision. As part of the Government’s pandemic pay initiative, they had allowed for a payment to individuals they had included on their list equal to $4/hr for hours worked over 16 weeks plus a $1000 lump sum. In his decision, Mr. Kaplan ruled that any resident who has worked at least 16 weeks, in the period July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, will receive pandemic pay based on a 60 hour work week together with the $1000 lump sum. In other words, all of our members who have worked at least 16 weeks between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021 will receive a gross payment of $4840!

In the coming days, we will work with our Employer and the paymasters to determine when this payment will be made. If you are graduating, be sure that your payroll centre has a forwarding address or a way to contact you.

While we are thrilled by this decision, we are sad that we had no way of extending this Award to the period prior to July 1, 2020. To everyone that stepped up in March 2020 to help battle the pandemic in the early days but graduated before July 1, 2020 – thank you. We explored every available route to try and include you but couldn’t.

I want to thank the members of the PARO Negotiations Team who have worked so hard on your behalf as well as the members of the 2020/21 PARO Board of Directors. Thank you to Dr. Anthea Lafreniere, PARO President 2019/20, during whose term the pandemic hit, for her incredible drive to push for pandemic pay and her commitment to keep the torch burning as I assumed the Presidency last June. 

Thanks to our Ontario PG Deans and Medical School Deans for their advocacy. I am also grateful for the letters of support that we received from the Canadian Medical Forum and their members including the CEOs and Presidents of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, Resident Doctors of Canada, the Medical Council of Canada, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada and HealthCareCan as well as Ontario’s Hospitals.

Special thanks to our dynamic legal duo, Mr. Steven Barrett and Ms. Nadine Blum for their legal expertise and exemplary negotiation skills. I would also like to thank all the PARO Staff, especially Dr. Robert Conn, Ms. Rhonda Trowell and Ms. Sarah Brush for your hard work, tenacity, and strategic guidance.

Most importantly, thank you to all of our members, this year and last, who have demonstrated that in the face of adversity, even when the Government chose not to bolster our morale by including us on the pandemic pay list, for not only showing up for work every day but for going above and beyond in delivering the best patient care possible.

For those of you who will be graduating soon, I wish you all the best in your careers. For those of you who will still be members next year, you can rest assured that under the guidance of our new President, Dr. Carl White Ulysse, that PARO will never give up in working to make the lives of residents better.

Warm regards,

Dr. Ryan Giroux

PARO Negotiations Chair

PARO Past President