Nurses are expected to gather across Ontario for a “community day of action” to champion their contract demands and raise awareness over what they say are threats to Ontario’s publicly-funded hospital and health care system.
The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) has been calling for an improved contract for some 60,000 members in the hospital sector since talks started earlier this year. In March, talks between the union and the Ontario Hospital Association ended without an agreement, sending the parties to arbitration expected to start sometime early next month.
“Simply put, our patients need and deserve better care,” ONA interim provincial president Bernie Robinson, who is also a registered nurse, said in a news release.
“The failure to properly invest in our public hospital system is hurting those who rely on quality care.”
ONA represents 68,000 registered nurses and 18,000 nursing student affiliates. It says the community events planned for Sunday are also aimed at educating the public on how the Doug Ford government’s policy on hospital and health care is hurting Ontarians — particularly taking aim at the province’s recent move to start expanding care, such as some surgeries and procedures , in private and for-profit clinics.
“As front-line nurses and health-care professionals, we’re informing people of the threats to their health care and making it easy for them to take steps to bring back better care for all,” said Robinson.
CBC Toronto has reached out to the province and the Ontario Hospital Association, which represents 140 public hospitals, for comment. Back in March, when the nurses organized a separate demonstration, Ford commented on the province’s relationship with nurses.
“We love our nurses. We know the dedication. They go in day in and day out,” Ford said when criticized by the official opposition to its treatment of nurses.
“We’re going to continue hiring nurses. There’s 30,000 nurses in our colleges and universities ready to serve. We’re grateful and we think the world of our nurses.”
The nurses, and other broader public sector workers, have been subject for three years to a wage restraint law known as Bill 124, which capped increases at one per cent a year. An Ontario court found Bill 124 unconstitutional late last year, but the government has filed a notice of intent to appeal.
Hospital nurses currently earn $34.24 an hour as a starting salary, per their last contract, and are subject to a grid that goes up to 25 years, when they can earn $49.02 an hour. The current contract expired on March 31.