BELLEVILLE, ON, Aug. 21, 2023 /CNW/ – Having exhausted all avenues to avoid withdrawing services, 50 registered nurses, public health nurses and registered practical nurses providing care and services to close to 200,000 residents of Hastings and Prince Edward Counties are on strike today. The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) members have been working without a contract since last December and have been seeking fair wage increases after years of wage erosion.
“If nurses are outside picketing, you know there’s something wrong inside,” says ONA Provincial President Erin Ariss, RN. “The extraordinary nurses working in this public health unit have tried everything possible to avoid a strike, up to the very last minute. They made the unusual offer to go to voluntary arbitration, yet their employer was determined to force their hand. The days of nurses accepting suppressed wages and falling further and further behind are over. Our nurses have more than earned respect and deserve it from this employer and this community, not only for their knowledge, education and skills, but their dedication to preventing illness and outbreaks among Ontarians in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties.”
The nurses and their employer held three days of bargaining and one day of conciliation. The employer brought an identical monetary offer to the table during the entire process. “At no time did the employer display a willingness to negotiate a fair contract,” says Ariss. “The employer also filed for a no-board, triggering a countdown to locking out its nurses. They clearly had no intention of ever negotiating a fair contract. We do not accept that bargaining should be about nurses accepting disrespectful wages to avoid disruptions of services. The employer’s negotiating committee has pushed our nurses out the door onto the picket lines,” says Ariss.
Wages are the sole sticking point to reaching an agreement. The nurses provide a wide range of care and services across a catchment area of more than 7,000 kilometres, including immunization clinics, monitoring for outbreaks, sexual health clinics and more. The community has a significant shortage of primary health-care providers. Many new parents access public health services for infant weight checks, feeding advice and referrals to community supports. Without these services, there will likely be an additional strain on the health-care system.
ONA notes that CUPE Local 3314 members of this health unit are heading to conciliation on August 24 and may soon be in a strike or lock-out position. This could leave people in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties with an almost complete lack of public health services and programs.
ONA is the union representing 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals as well as 18,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care, public health, the community, clinics and industry.
SOURCE Ontario Nurses’ Association