Arbitration Award Falls Short of Front-Line Nurses' Expectations, says Ontario Nurses' Association



    TORONTO, March 5 /CNW/ - Almost one year after the expiry of their
collective agreement, the Ontario Nurses' Association's (ONA) approximately
50,000 hospital registered nurses and allied health personnel have been
awarded a new contract by an arbitration panel.
    "The award provides wage and benefit increases marginally above those
negotiated by the other hospital unions, but falls far short of meeting
nurses' expectations," says ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. "While our
top rate remains the highest in Canada, our overall compensation package lags
behind those provided to nurses in Alberta and the award does little to
address those inequities," she says.
    "While both are important, the award gives more emphasis to the
recruitment of new graduates than to the retention of those nurses already in
the system," notes Haslam-Stroud. "Whether this will help ease the nursing
shortage and the unbearable workloads of those now in the system is yet to be
determined, but it will be closely monitored by the union."
    The award, determined by an arbitration panel chaired by Mr. Chris
Albertyn, also establishes a provincial committee involving the union,
hospitals and government representatives to look at workload measurement
systems - with the goal of addressing front-line nurses' workload concerns and
promoting quality patient care.
    "ONA hopes that the Ontario Hospital Association will be a willing and
active participant in these discussions so that finally, the horrendous
workloads of front-line nurses are addressed," says Haslam-Stroud. "We are
also pleased that the arbitration award supports our demand for proper
protective equipment in the event of a pandemic by requiring employers to
stock sufficient supplies of N95 respirators, and prevent the needless loss of
lives."
    Haslam-Stroud notes that the OHA calls nurses 'the heart of health care,'
and their rhetoric would suggest a level of respect for nurses. However,
"their actions continue to tell a very different story."
    While the union remains committed to the collective bargaining process,
ONA remains concerned that this is the second consecutive contract that has
been held up at arbitration, primarily as a result of repeated demands from
the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) to gut nurses' seniority rights, to gut
their sick-leave benefits, and to delete from their agreement conditions that
have been in existence since 1981.
    "While ONA is pleased that yet another arbitration board has had the
wisdom to reject the draconian measures that the OHA continues to table," says
Haslam-Stroud, "the level of frustration is reaching the boiling point."
    ONA believes the arbitrator has recognized the importance that the
provincial government plays in matters pertaining to occupational health and
safety and the role they need to play if the ONA/OHA workload measurement
committee is to be effective.
    "The government already controls the purse strings," says Haslam-Stroud.
"If the OHA is unwilling or unable to bargain, maybe the time is right to
negotiate directly with the provincial government."

    ONA is the union representing 53,000 front-line registered nurses and
allied health professionals working in Ontario hospitals, long-term care
facilities, public health, the community and industry.





For further information:

For further information: Ontario Nurses' Association, Sheree Bond, (416)
964-8833, ext. 2430, Cellular: (416) 986-8240; Melanie Levenson, (416)
964-8833, ext. 2369


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