Ontario Nurses' Association Says Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit Wasting Tax Dollars on Legal Costs: Union will file unfair labour practice complaint, public health nurses heading to conciliation

BARRIE, ON, March 14, 2013 /CNW/ - As 140 Public Health Nurses working for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit hold a pre-conciliation strike vote and head to conciliation on March 18, the union representing them is filing an unfair labour practice complaint and bad faith bargaining complaint against their employer.

Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN, charges that the Health Unit is wasting tax dollars on frivolous court proceedings and instead, should be dedicating its time and taxpayers' dollars to health care for the community.

The Health Unit has incurred huge and unnecessary legal fees, says Haslam-Stroud.

"Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit lost at a labour arbitration hearing before a three-person arbitration board in 2009 and then refused to implement the arbitration board's decision regarding excluding employees it calls 'supervisors' from the Bargaining Unit," she says. "It judicially reviewed this arbitration decision at Divisional Court in 2010 and lost. It tried to challenge the Divisional Court decision and lost in the leave application to the Court of Appeal in 2011."

The Health Unit also lost its application to the Ontario Labour Relations Board on the same issue in 2012 and has refused to disclose how much money it has spent in legal fees in response to ONA's Freedom of Information requests.

"Despite all these losses, the Health Unit has refused to implement the court decisions," says Haslam-Stroud. "Moreover, it then placed the people in these positions on their negotiating team for a new contract for our dedicated Public Health Nurses. Unfortunately, this employer has refused to remove proposals at the negotiating table that are contrary to the Ontario Labour Board, court and arbitrator's decisions, thus stalling any attempt for meaningful negotiations necessary to reach a new collective agreement."

The Health Unit has refused to move from its position, forcing ONA to file an Unfair Labour Practice Complaint and bad-faith bargaining complaint at the Labour Board, and to initiate enforcement and contempt proceedings at court.

"Our Public Health Nurses deserve to be valued by their employer for the important work they do to keep their community safe and healthy," says Haslam-Stroud. "Instead, their employer has been wasting precious tax dollars and years in the courts, losing every step along the way."

The nurses provide a range of health promotion programs and services, manage and control diseases, provide clinic service including immunization and sexual health, and education individuals, families and the community on a wide array of issues.

They also provide the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program to ensure each child has the best start to life. The nurses have been without a contract since December 31, 2011.

"This employer boasts on its website that it values excellence in the promotion and protection of health, providing quality programs and services and working in partnerships with other organizations and clients," says ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. "Yet despite promoting the fact that they value respect for all people and their right to be treated 'fairly and with dignity,' the employer has treated the dedicated nurses who care for their community in quite the opposite way."

ONA and the Board of Health began bargaining in May, 2012; talks ended last October 31 and conciliation talks began in January.

"Our nurses remain hopeful that this employer will be ready to negotiate a fair collective agreement that recognizes the value of the services Public Health Nurses provide," said Haslam-Stroud. "They deserve recognition and to be valued for what they do and taxpayers deserve to see their hard-earned money spent in a way that will benefit them."

The nurses serve communities that include Bradford, Cookstown, Alliston, Barrie, Stroud, Stayner, Collingwood, Clearview, Orillia, Midland, Penetanguishene, Wasaga Beach, Gravenhurst, Mactier, Bracebridge and Huntsville.

ONA is the union representing 60,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals, as well as more than 14,000 nursing student affiliates providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.

SOURCE: Ontario Nurses' Association

For further information:

Ontario Nurses' Association

Sheree Bond (416) 964-8833, ext. 2430/cell: (416) 986-8240, shereeb@ona.org

Melanie Levenson   (416) 964-8833, ext. 2369, melaniel@ona.org

Visit us at: www.ona.orgwww.Facebook.com/OntarioNurseswww.Twitter.com/OntarioNurses


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