The Optometrists Who’ve Turned Down Pay Increases to Prevent a Work Round

Are you good with your own eyes? Have trouble seeing objects close up, and need glasses or contacts? What about flexible schedules — you’re typically only on the job during the day?

Many patients of optometrists in Ontario find themselves in the same boat, or worse.

In the past decade, two major physician unions in Ontario have been negotiating collective agreements with optometrists — providing them with a major strike threat. With almost 60% of optometrists’ medical specialty/practitioner colleagues feeling forced to find another job during a four-day work week, it appears optometrists’ union interests and patients’ interests are being exploited for much more than just a contract.

Optometrists are responsible for more than 80% of the optometric services in Ontario, and many doctors see opting out as unacceptable — from mental health to cancer diagnoses — and the optometrists’ union is making this too easy.

Our optometrists are providing care, at any time of the day or night, to patients and do it exceptionally well, but optometrists have shouldering the burden of negotiating for this considerable amount of work with existing budgets. When private payers chose optometrists for public care, this give-away should be celebrated. Instead, opting out has become a real-life law of the land for optometrists.

While optometrists get targeted and tarnished, it’s time to look to other options. Optometrists negotiate for themselves. Within Optometric Society Ontario, which represents optometrists, they’ve asked the Provincial Relations Commission to free optometrists of the coercive demands for restrictive hours. They provided a written survey to the commission at the end of August in which 96% of optometrists volunteered a number of other options, such as discussing a new contract which fits the needs of the profession, including wage increases, to equalize with physicians in Quebec, and freeze or reduce costly overhead costs.

The optometrists at ISSO have made a very clear, strong, determined and principled case for change. Let’s hear their voice loud and clear — optometrists have been held hostage to another work round for too long and now are free to take matters into their own hands.

Copyright © 2018, American Optometric Association

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toronto Star.


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