*Updated* Regent Park health workers on strike

Daryl Gonsalves –

April 5th Update: The Union representing Regent Park workers has announced that a new collective agreement was ratified containing significant improvements to their working conditions. Their first day back to work is Monday, April 8th.”


If you strolled by 465 Dundas Street East near Parliament Street recently, you would see frontline workers of the Regent Park Community Healthcare Centre picketing. Following a union rally on March 21 and an unsuccessful final meeting with the management team, OPSEU Local 5115 went on strike on Friday, March 22.

The union has been calling for cost-of-living increases that the Healthcare Centre’s man­agement team argues its budget cannot accommodate. In con­trast, Local 5115 contends, management has granted them­selves significant pay raises and promotions.

Following my article in the March edition of the bridge on the Healthcare Centre’s 50th anniversary, I interviewed community members, front­line workers and OPSEU Local 5115. However, executive direc­tor Paulos Gebreyesus and An­jum Sultana of the board of di­rectors declined to provide their perspective in an interview.

The frontline workers rep­resented by Local 5115 pro­vide critical services including life-saving programs in re­sponse to the opioid overdose epidemic, harm reduction, low-barrier supports for addic­tions and homelessness, pri­mary and mental health care, diabetes education and nutrition services, and support for chil­dren, youth and families. Staff retention is a major issue at the Healthcare Centre because staff turnover was 22 percent in 2022 and 15 percent in 2023.

The union argues that com­munity health care workers are grossly underpaid compared with other health care work­ers, and like many employees in Toronto, they cannot afford to live in the city. Many of the Healthcare Centre staffers I in­terviewed commute from out­side Toronto.

From 2020 to 2022, provin­cial legislation (since found un­constitutional) limited wage increases to one percent (1%) per year. However, this did not apply to management. In 2022, for example, the union argues that the executive director re­ceived a 6.2 per cent increase. On benefits, Local 5115 claims there have been no changes for 30 years. On the working envi­ronment, the union says man­agement negotiators refused to address staff concerns about program cuts and workplace mental health. Local 5115 cites program cuts to the Blue Door clinic providing HIV care for those without status, collapse of the community health team and denial of funding for ground-floor programs for unhoused people.

At the emotional March 21 rally, community members, cli­ents, doctors and community leaders showed support for the frontline staff. A sign held by a client of the Healthcare Centre said staff had saved their life.

Since the strike began, Lo­cal 5115 says management has retained a union-specific secu­rity firm to patrol the premises while employing a Bay Street lawyer at the negotiating table. Meanwhile, primary care phy­sicians of the Healthcare Cen­tre have written Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones calling for additional funding. Kristyn Wong-Tam, Toronto Centre’s Member of Provincial Parlia­ment has raised this issue in the Legislature.

For more information and to support Local 5115, visit https://opseu.org/support-re­gent-park-workers/. The Cen­tre’s executive director may be reached at PaulosG@regent­parkchc.org. At the time of writing, no collective agreement was reached between the union and management team therefore Local 5115 will continue daily picketing at 465 Dundas East.