Conciliation Fails: Chatham-Kent Public Health Nurses Hold Strike Vote

    TORONTO, Feb. 8 /CNW/ - The 42 public health nurses in the Municipality
of Chatham-Kent continue to work without a new contract following the failure
of a conciliation session. The nurses, members of Ontario Nurses' Association
(ONA) Local 35, are preparing to strike following a strike vote on February 6,
2008, but remain hopeful that a mediation session tentatively scheduled on the
day before the nurses are in a legal strike position will be successful in
reaching an agreement.
    "No nurse wants to leave his or her patients vulnerable and without
care," notes ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. "A strike is the last,
last resort. But our members have been hitting a stone wall in negotiations
with the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, and Municipality of Chatham-Kent public
health nurses continue to be paid between five and 10 per cent less than
nurses in other provincial health units. This inequity can't continue, as the
nursing shortage worsens and recruitment and retention of nurses becomes more
difficult across the province, especially in Chatham-Kent."
    Local 35 members provide public health services in the communities across
the entire Municipality of Chatham-Kent, including health education and
promotion for families with new babies, outbreak protection for the community
including flu and hepatitis vaccine clinics, and provide sexual health clinics
and education for Chatham-Kent's 110,000 residents.
    In addition to the inequity in wages, the nurses have been involved in an
ongoing pay equity dispute for more than two years. They are also seeking
improvements to stand-by premiums which have not been negotiated for more than
10 years. The Municipality intends to implement new policies for emergency
preparedness and pandemic planning that will see the nurses be on-call 24
hours per day and seven days per week. The nurses will be the Municipality's
first line of defense in such emergencies and they deserve to be paid
comparably with other public health nurses in the area for their time and
community health expertise. The employer has also proposed significant benefit
reductions for the most senior public health nurses.
    The last contract for these nurses expired December 31, 2006; however,
they have not had a pay increase since January 1, 2004.

    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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