TORONTO, April 19, 2021 /CNW/ - An arbitration being held this week between the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA), representing hospital-sector registered nurses and health-care professionals, and the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) is scheduled at a time when the province's health-care system is buckling under severe pressure due to COVID-19.
As extensive redeployment of hospital staff takes place in an attempt to ensure care for all patients, there is a gross shortage of ICU nurses and other hospital nurses, posing a dangerous threat to the provision of quality now in its third wave, has highlighted the essential contributions made by nurses and health-care workers and the level of skill, commitment and professionalism they have shown.
"Premier Ford has paid tribute to nurses and health-care professionals by calling them heroes, but this is a unique opportunity for the government to truly show meaningful support and to acknowledge the hard work of hospital nurses," ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN, says. "Nurses do not need more warm words that, to many, already ring hollow. If Premier Ford truly values nurses, he will exempt them from Bill 124."
Bill 124 caps public-sector wage increases to one per cent. Although front-line registered nurses working in Ontario hospitals are heading to arbitration, seeking a pay increase after 10 years of below-inflation raises and wage freezes, the Ford government's Bill 124 will likely prevent this from happening ? again.
"Ontario has more than 17,000 nurse vacancies in every role and in every setting," says McKenna. "I don't know how Ontario will fill these positions if the government does not invest in them and in our health-care system. I urge the Ford government to use this moment to show Ontario he truly values nurses and health-care professionals. His government has exempted other male-dominated professions from Bill 124. It is past time to do the same for our nurses and health-care professionals."
McKenna notes that nurses are leaving the profession because of the lack of respect they have been shown by the government and their employers. Proper recognition, respect and the pay to match it will go some way in addressing the unfilled positions, she says. "Exempting nurses and health-care professionals from Bill 124 will not only make them feel valued, it would also help attract and retain the additional nurses needed to safely staff Ontario's health-care system. Our patients deserve no less."
ONA has initiated a Charter challenge regarding Bill 124, and this court battle will last years. "This legislation is an attack on nurses and an attack on women," says McKenna. "Premier Ford must do the right thing and exempt nurses from this Bill. They more than deserve this respect."
ONA is the union representing more than 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
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