Chet Greason firstname.lastname@example.org
After 14 days of service disruption due to a strike by members of the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA), the labour dispute between the province’s community care access centres and the union has entered arbitration, resulting in the striking workers returning to the job.
The strike had affected nine out of 14 CCACs across Ontario.
ONA members from the South West CCAC were in Stratford on Thursday morning marching around city hall and topping up parking meters to chants of “2, 4, 6, 8! We want to negotiate!” and signs that read, “I helped your dad get a bed at a nursing home.”
Site rep Jane Feltz said her union was asking for a 1.4 per cent wage increase- the same that was given to other ONA members in hospitals, health units, and homes for the aged.
“We don’t have wage parity with hospital nurses,” she clarified.
The CCAC, meanwhile, had been active in refuting the ONA’s claims. When the union reported its members had received a two-year wage freeze, the CCAC clarified the workers received a 1.2 per cent lump sum in the first and second contract years, with a 2.75 increase in the third.
Feltz called those lump sums “a tip.”
“It’s not pensionable,” she said. “It doesn’t carry over to the next year.”
She also pointed out that CCAC CEOs had seen significant raises. In both of the past two years, CCACs saw a five per cent increase in their funding from the province, yet little of that went to front line staff save for the aforementioned lump sums.
In reference to this, the ONA strikers were chanting on Thursday, “Hey hey, ho ho! Where did all the money go?”
CCACs had told patients that services would continue despite the strike, but this proved not to be the case. Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece penned an open letter to Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long Term Care, Eric Hoskins, on Feb. 10, calling the strike a “disruption.” He specifically called attention to Stratford’s three new family doctors and how Health Care Connect, a service meant to connect patients with new family doctors, was out of service due to the strike.
“Even now, as three new doctors have opened practices in Stratford, many of my constituents still do not have access to the medical care that they need,” he wrote. “I strongly urge you to do what you can to resolve this labour dispute as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, Feltz was not surprised that patients were going without services.
“How can you possibly do all those jobs when you have 400 care coordinators on strike?” she asked.
The day that ONA members were marching on a picket line in Stratford, ONA and CCAC representatives were in talks after a meeting was called by the Ministry of Labour. Despite a mediator being present, the talks were suspended by day’s end with no resolution.
They resumed Saturday, when both sides agreed to participate in interest arbitration in order to settle outstanding issues.
While the details are worked out through arbitration, ONA workers returned to their jobs on Tuesday, Feb. 17.