“This has been a particularly challenging year, as the pandemic rages on and government legislation, including the discriminatory Bill 124, have shown much disrespect to the very nurses and health-care professionals who keep our health-care system afloat. Yet, throughout it all, you have shown such great resilience by standing up and pushing back. And this year, like so many before, has clearly shown that when we come together as one strong voice, we absolutely can create the change we want — and need — to see.”
— ONA President Cathryn Hoy, RN
ONA 2022 Annual Report
- Board Members
- Our Strategic Plan
- COVID-19 Pandemic
- Bill 124 and the Nursing Shortage
- Provincial Election
- ARAO Action Plan
- Organizational Changes
- Condensed Financial Statements
Cathryn Hoy, RN
As we approach ONA’s 50th birthday, your Board of Directors, ONA management and staff have been working tirelessly to reimagine and reenergize our union, ensuring it remains effective and dynamic for the next 50 years. This is a new era. While the challenges have never been as great, our commitment and will have never been stronger.
We have made a concerted effort to step up our public and media messaging. We are truly telling Ontarians the truth about health care and those who provide that care.
Front-line members are mobilizing like never before and making a difference. ONA has always said that our strength lies in solidarity, and we all need to use our voices and speak up and out. You are doing so, and it’s working.
ONA is rolling out a Strategic Plan to ensure that the services you receive from ONA improve and, with your feedback, continue to do so.
One initiative from this past year is the release of ONA’s Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Plan. Our goal is to educate, increase awareness and ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect. You’ll read about many more ONA initiatives and key work over the past year on the following pages.
I am so appreciative of you all as well as those I have been working alongside at ONA. We are a formidable team, getting better every day, and I look forward to building a bright future.
Andrea Kay, RN
Chief Executive Officer
The old proverb about living in “interesting times” has never been truer.
ONA and our 68,000 nurses and health-care professionals, as well as 18,000 nursing student affiliates, certainly are living in such times. We have been put to the test to a degree we’ve never before seen and are emerging more committed and stronger than ever.
This Annual Report details for you the myriad of change ONA is undergoing to serve members the best ways we can. President Cathryn Hoy has written about much of the change, and as CEO, I would be remiss in not praising our management team and staff for their efforts.
We have all had to show a great deal of resolve, resilience and flexibility recently, both in our personal and professional lives. Your ONA staff has done this brilliantly. We demand a lot from them and they have come through for you, our members.
Just as we have all had to evolve and adapt throughout the pandemic, so too has our staff structure at ONA. Our reporting structure is being refined and realigned, we continue to add staff to ensure your needs are met in a timely way, and even our information technology system is being brought up to date. It’s a lot to adjust to, but we all committed to adopting best practices for your benefit.
I want to thank not only our Board, management and staff, but you — each and every ONA member — for your dedication, loyalty and resilience. We will continue to live in “interesting” times and will need the strength we have together.
Angela Preocanin, RN
Portfolio: Local Political Action and Professional Issues
“Never have the two areas of my portfolio collided more than this past year. Members are continuing to use ONA’s unique professional responsibility complaint process to successfully address your workload issues, while increasingly taking advantage of other political action strategies available. While we don’t expect our challenges to go away, I am thrilled we have many avenues to fight back and members more than willing to do so.”
Dawn Armstrong, RN
Region 1 Vice-President
Portfolio: Human Rights and Equity
“It has been immensely inspiring to collaborate with members, staff and our lead consultant over the past year on bringing our critical anti-racism and anti-oppression work to fruition. While we have a long road ahead of us, guided by a robust four-year plan, I am positive we will come out the other side better, stronger and even more committed. But it will take each and every one of us to get there.”
Bernadette Robinson, RN
Region 2 Vice-President
“It has been hugely gratifying to see members face to face once again at Local education sessions and our annual Leadership school this past September. The pandemic has certainly shown how well our members have embraced our education options, using several digital formats with tremendous success. For these reasons, we will continue to use those platforms as our primary method of delivery.”
Karen McKay-Eden, RN
Region 3 Vice-President
Portfolio: Labour Relations
“ONA has never forgotten that labour relations, such as contract negotiations and grievance handling, is the core work of the union. This past year has seen an increase in service needs from our membership, which can be directly attributed to harmful legislation and policies set out by
the Ford government and individual employers. Despite these difficulties, ONA will continue to do whatever it takes to meet your increased needs. As a new Board member, I am committed to overseeing this core service.”
Erin Ariss, RN
Region 4 Vice-President
Portfolio: Local Finance
“I have been so proud and excited to step into this role over the past year — and equally proud and excited to work with our Local executives as they continue to adopt strategic planning to proactively develop and respond to changes the pandemic and other issues have brought and continue to bring to priorities in Local budgets. This is an incredible show of leadership for members.”
Alan Warrington, RN
Region 5 Vice-President
Portfolio: Occupational Health and Safety
“The past year certainly showed us how vital a robust health and safety system is, both provincially and within our workplaces. You continued to push your employers and the government for the safeguards you need at work and to put an end to workplace violence, knowing that if you aren’t safe, neither are those under your care. Together, we must never stop advocating for that.”
Our Strategic Plan
Just having a plan is not enough; we must follow through on it.
With this in mind, the ONA team has been hard at work determining how our very first Strategic Plan will be put into practice. The plan, ratified at our 2021 Biennial Convention, took into consideration input from more than 3,000 members and staff, setting out six overarching priorities and 22 strategic actions to take place through 2026.
Since then, the implementation work has centered on three key outputs:
- Board Direction Statement.
- Accountability Framework.
- Multi-Year Action Plans.
Board Direction Statement
In January, the ONA Board of Directors identified nine actions from the longer list of strategic actions
to be regarded as urgent and prioritized in the near term, or years 1-2 of the plan. They outlined rationale
for their selections to provide clear guidance to staff. These priorities were top-of-mind in all planning work undertaken in the following months, with the expectation of progress by the end of 2022. The Board selections included actions 2, 6, 8, 12, 13, 16, 18, 20 and 21.
“The Board is committed to implementing the kind of ONA members want for today, tomorrow and generations to come. This plan will only make us stronger and better connected.”
— ONA President Cathryn Hoy, RN
Are we successfully doing what we said we were going to do and achieve?
This simple question is at the heart of the Accountability Framework, developed by a working group of the Board’s Quality Committee, with representation from staff, membership and the Board. The framework contains indicators and measures of success that are linked to the plan’s priorities and the mission, vision and values.
Tracking and reporting will help make ONA’s progress transparent and clear to members and others in ONA. This will provide important insights into what works and what doesn’t to better create the conditions for success.
Multi-Year Action Plans
While that work was ongoing, a group of staff co-leads were developing Multi-Year Action Plans (MYAPs). These MYAPs answer the question of “What is ONA going to DO to support each of the 22 actions in the Strategic Plan?”
Everyone involved wanted these plans to strike a balance between being ambitious and realistic. The full action plans are detailed operational documents that lay out for each year what tasks will be done, the resources needed, the risks and barriers involved, and the indicators and measures that will help us track progress.
Staff wholeheartedly believe that having these plans in place will strengthen their focus and make ONA more effective in facing challenges over the next four years.
Both the MYAPs and Accountability Framework were presented for feedback to the full Board of Directors in June 2022. The Board looked at whether the plans meet the expectations of members and if what we have set out is achievable.
Moving forward, ONA staff and representatives will be taking the next important steps in bringing the plan to life — reporting on our progress every step of the way.
While the COVID-19 pandemic persisted, leaving a trail of exhausted nurses and health-care professionals in its wake, and despite warnings from ONA, the province looked for a full return to normal over the past year.
In October 2021, the Ford government announced a timeline roadmap plan to lift restrictions. While there was some backtracking in the subsequent months with the emergence of the more virulent omicron variant, on January 31, 2022, with key public health and health indicators starting to show slight signs of improvement, the government began a phased approached to lifting all restrictions.
Also lifted were the previously extended redeployment orders established in Bill 195, Reopening Ontario Act, meaning employers could no longer redeploy, reassign, change the schedule of work or shift assignments, defer
or cancel vacation, absences or other leaves, or employ extra staff without complying with the provisions of collective agreements and relevant statutes. ONA had been sounding the alarm on the extraordinary powers and overreach the Ford government awarded themselves with that bill since 2020.
When they introduced a “plan” on August 18, 2022 to manage the virus long-term, including conducting thousands of surgeries in private hospitals, we immediately spoke out. The Ford government completely ignored the concerns of the very nurses and health-care professionals who faced so many challenges and sacrificed so much to keep the health-care system afloat throughout the pandemic, including Bill 124 and the staffing crisis.
We were equally concerned by the subsequent announcement from the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health that infected patients must no longer isolate for five days and can resume activities after just 24 hours regardless of a positive COVID-19 test result. We told the media we had barely emerged from the seventh wave and that the science indicates we need stronger protections. ONA and our fellow unions also continued to demand 10 permanent paid sick days for all workers and full and permanent immigration status for all migrants.
And so, our advocacy continues. The pandemic also put a sharp focus on our members’ role as patient advocate, as you mobilized and pressed your MPPs and employers on issues such as personal protective equipment and other safeguards.
After decades of pushing for change through countless inquiries, commissions and hearings, ONA remains optimistic that the type of tragedy we have seen during the pandemic, particularly in long-term care, will never be allowed to happen again, thanks to this joint activism.
Bill 124 and the Nursing Shortage
Nothing in recent memory has riled ONA and our members like the wage-suppressing Bill 124, with the provincial and local push-back reaching new heights over the past year.
Introduced by the Ford government in 2019, Bill 124 caps wages and total compensation to one per cent per year for three years to some public sector workers, including most ONA members, but not others, such as municipal police officers or firefighters — male-dominated professions. This, after a decade of wage freezes or below-inflation increases. With inflation hitting an all-time high in 2022, the bill’s wage restrictions actually amount to substantial pay cuts.
The province continued to feel the devastating impacts of Bill 124 on the recruitment and retention of nurses and health-care professionals. While the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s figures show a shortage of 22,000 RNs in Ontario, ONA believes the number is far higher.
Members reported that the disrespect they feel over Bill 124 continued to be a driving factor in their desire to leave — with exhaustion and burnout from the pandemic also significant contributors. A 2021 Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions survey, which ONA members were invited to complete, found that 67 per cent of nurses worked at least three of their last five shifts without regular core staff. In summer 2022, several hospitals reached a breaking point, reducing or closing emergency departments, intensive care units and other services due to this dire staffing crisis. While the Ford government stated in its 2022 Throne Speech that the situation was “temporary” (and offered no remedies or infusion of funds in its budget), ONA quickly corrected that in the media.
On the Home Front
In fact, ONA spoke out at every opportunity, conducting close to 1,000 interviews during the timespan of this report. After ONA President Cathryn’s Hoy’s tweet that Premier Doug Ford “refuses to meet with nurses” went viral in early 2022, he finally agreed to a meeting, albeit unproductive, which we followed up with emails and calls. We also met with opposition leaders and spoke at Bill 124 media conferences with the NDP and fellow unions, spelling out exactly what the government must do to address the nursing shortage, with repealing Bill 124 being number one.
Our solutions continued to be ignored.
Instead, in an unsuccessful attempt to mollify nurses, Premier Ford announced in March 2022 a $5,000 nurses’ retention “bonus.” But not all nurses were eligible and health-care professionals, so critical to our health-care system, were excluded altogether. The funds were also dispersed in two payments, with the second one promised after the June provincial election. As of September 2022, some members still hadn’t received the latter installment. ONA was not surprised that same month with revelations in the Financial Accountability Office report that the Ford government is stealing $9.7 billion in salaries from nurses, health-care professionals and some public sector workers over 2019-2027
Members continued to escalate actions at a local level, with thousands arranging and/or participating in rallies, meeting with MPPs, calling and texting elected officials en masse during ONA “phone zaps,” writing letters to editors, displaying lawn signs — the list goes on. Some were successful in getting regional councils to pass motions to put pressure on the Ford government to overturn Bill 124.
And as part of their Blue Ribbon Campaign, a group of Region 4 members urged others to change their social media profile picture to blue and tag their MPPs to symbolize this ongoing fight, in a movement that is gaining momentum.
Despite these actions, the Ford government has refused to budge on Bill 124 and acknowledge the role it plays on the nursing shortage. But on September 13-14, ONA finally had our day(s) in court when the Charter Challenge we launched against the bill with several other public sector unions made its way to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for a two-week hearing.
Drawing on the thousands of pages of evidence we filed, our expert legal team spoke before Justice Markus Koehnen on how Bill 124 violates our rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They highlighted the discriminatory nature of the bill, which targets female-dominated professionals, and how it interferes with our right to freely bargain.
If we are successful in our Charter challenge, not only will Bill 124 be repealed, but ONA will also be able to reopen previous contracts affected by the bill to try and claim lost wage increases. We remain hopeful.
ONA and our members kept the focus squarely where it needed to be during the June 2022 provincial election: on health care.
With so much at stake, including regressive legislation, such as Bill 124, a growing nursing shortage, increased workplace burnout and violence, and a woefully underfunded health-care system threatened by privatization, ONA launched our most ambitious and comprehensive election campaign to date, Nurses Vote. The goal was to educate members, politicians and the public on ONA’s key priorities — repeal Bill 124, end the nurse staffing crisis, improve working conditions, ensure fairness through a social determinants of health lens, and keep health care public — and to encourage them to vote for health care. And we certainly did!
A key component of the campaign was the appointment of 20 dedicated members, referred to as secondees, from all five regions, who worked with their Regional Vice-Presidents and ONA staff on targeted engagement work in their regions, involving thousands of other members.
This included spearheading and participating in rallies wearing hard-to-miss bright pink shirts outside of MPPs’ constituency offices, workplaces, Queen’s Park and other prominent locations to demand better. On May 1 alone, members participated in 15 rallies throughout the province in support of the Ontario Federation of Labour’s Day of Action, demanding the repeal of Bill 124. The Toronto rally was one of our highest attended ever!
While many candidates marched with us, we also went directly to them, with our secondees and members conducting 40 candidate meetings with all major party leaders and speaking at several of their media events. We even crashed a few of Premier Doug Ford’s!
Ensuring members were contacted directly about what was at stake during this election was crucial, with secondees and member volunteers calling almost 41,000 members and sending more than 15,000 texts. Many also spoke to their colleagues face-to-face outside of work hours, and social media was widely used.
“This is not just about being an activist; it’sabout being a leader in your community, your workplaces — wherever you want to see change. ONA members are the union, and we need to stand together.”
— Region 2 secondee Cheshta Sharma, RN
To complement this work, ONA created a visually stunning and information-packed Nurses Vote website. We sent email blasts to our members and a broadcast voicemail message from ONA President Cathryn Hoy. We launched a powerful Nurses Fighting for Change advertising campaign, featuring our own members. We included an informative election brochure with Front Lines. We spoke at many press conferences. And we were all over the media, appearing in more than 160 election-related stories and blog posts.
While the Ford government remained in power, there is no question our campaign made an impact. ONA was active in eight of the 10 ridings decided by fewer than 1,000 votes, and the Conservatives received the support of just 40 per cent of voters (and only 17 per cent of all eligible voters due to low voter turnout). That means 60 per cent voted against them. Three other major parties committed to repealing Bill 124 and shifted their campaign messaging to focus on health care — and more than 53 per cent of Ontarians voted for those parties.
We also came away with much hope. Members bonded like never before to build the kind of province you want to see, and we will continue to harness that power. The Board is committed to increasing our mobilizing work, and so too are our secondees, who relayed that the campaign was a tremendous learning experience that has sparked a desire to become even more politically active.
Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Action Plan
Acknowledging that we have much work to do, ONA released a groundbreaking action plan to address the ongoing racism and oppression that exist for so many.
Our 2022-2026 Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression (ARAO) Action Plan comes on the heels of ONA’s powerful position statement, Beyond Good Intentions: Confronting Racial Discrimination through Solidary, released a month after the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minnesota police officer, sparking a long overdue global wake-up call. The statement called for the formation of a consulting group of members to strengthen policies and approaches to anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, noting, “We will listen to those with lived experiences. We will educate ourselves. We will not be silent.”
Soon after, an Anti-Racism Advisory (ARA) Team, consisting of up to three Black ONA members, up to three Indigenous members and up to three members from racialized groups was formed, supported by our new staff ARAO Working Group. The ARAO Working Group is assisted by Lead Consultant Tomee Sojourner-Campbell. Region 1 Vice-President Dawn Armstrong, who holds the portfolio of human rights and equity, chairs the ARA Team.
By reviewing material already available, examining issues from those with direct lived experiences of racism and intersectional forms of racism within our communities and workplaces, and what is happening within the broader health-care sector to address issues around racism, the working group, in full consultation with the ARA Team, created the action plan, a summary of which was released in August 2022 in both official languages.
“We recognize that the intersections of racism, gender, age, socio-economic status, housing, geographic location and other social determinants of health leave Black, Indigenous, racialized and historically marginalized communities at increased risk of marginalization and diminished health outcomes within Ontario’s health-care system,” the action plan states. “ONA has traditionally used a human rights and equity approach to guide our work and underpin our belief that every member and employee has the right to equal treatment and freedom from discrimination and harassment in the workplace and the union. While this approach continues to be a core tenet of our work, we recognize that we need to use an ARAO approach to identify and address intersectional forms of racism and advance equity.”
An ARAO approach focuses on the different ways people from Black, Indigenous, racialized and historically marginalized groups experience racism. Integrating this approach into ONA’s work will help us review our organizational structures, policies, procedures, practices and actions, and develop remedies and preventative measures.
Where do We Go from Here?
The action plan contains seven priority areas (see box) and 34 action items that will guide us as we build our infrastructure, challenge systemic racism and strengthen internal capacity to integrate evidence-based ARAO practices into every level of ONA’s services, work environments, workplace culture and leadership. This is not a static plan; rather, it will change over time based on known and unknown factors.
It will take the support of all ONA members to move this critical work forward, with the action plan stating that “without individual and collective action, racism in all its different forms will continue to threaten the health and safety of so many in our profession, work environments and the communities we call home.”
The ARAO Action Plan’s Seven Priorities
- ARAO Education
- Supporting Indigenous, Black, Racialized & Historically Marginalized Members, Staff, Management and Elected Leadership
- General Supports, Resources and Tools
- Organizational Development and Operations
- Representation Matters! Leadership
- Leading Change-2022 and Beyond
Key events and highlights from October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022.
2022 Annual Report Timeline
Organizational Changes at ONA
While ONA has always provided excellent services to our dedicated members, we have had to meet and surpass your needs and expectations in an ever-changing and challenging work environment.
That means reviewing and assessing our staffing needs regularly and looking for ways to ensure we have the workforce and resources available to provide that increased level of support.
With that in mind, many changes to our organizational structure were undertaken this past year that will make certain ONA is the strongest and most effective union it can be, and that we establish a framework for our future sustainability and growth. These changes firmly align with our five-year Strategic Plan.
One thing that hasn’t changed though is the dedication of our Board of Directors, Local and Bargaining Unit leaders, front-line members and staff, who continue to work together to effect positive change and enhance our union.
Board/Senior Management Changes
In February 2022, the Board named ONA President Cathryn Hoy as Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and added the position of Chief Administrative Officer, which they determined must be filled by an RN or health-care professional. Former Senior Director, Labour Relations Andrea Kay, who is an RN, was appointed.
In that role, Kay worked in partnership with Hoy, leading the organization’s day-to-day staff operations. The interim appointment of Hoy as CEO allowed Kay to transition and grow into the CEO role on a permanent basis, which happened just as the Annual Report headed to print.
Region 3 Vice-President DJ Sanderson stepped away from the Board to join ONA’s Senior Management Team in the new position of Executive Lead, Provincial Services, overseeing our Professional Practice, Health and Safety, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), and Long-Term Disability (LTD) teams.
Sanderson’s shift to staff necessitated a Region 3 by-election in August 2022, with former Mount Sinai Bargaining Unit President Karen McKay-Eden being elected to the role.
Adjustments were also made to the titles and functions of some senior management staff positions, including Chief Legal Officer, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Negotiator. The Chief Legal Officer is spearheading a complete realignment of ONA’s legal services, which is expected to be completed in 2023.
Staff Increases to Better Serve Members
As members’ needs grow, so too does our staff. To ensure we have adequate capacity to accomplish the work of
our union, with succession planning in mind, more staff have been hired over the past year in specialized areas, including labour relations, legal, communications and government relations.
Of note is the creation of three additional LTD Specialist positions and four new Leadership Development and Member Support Labour Relations Officers (LROs). These four LROs will provide support to new Bargaining Unit Presidents, ensuring they obtain high-quality onboarding and intensive needs-based assistance, so their members receive consistent services throughout leadership transitions.
District Service Teams Align with Regions
One of the most significant changes to ONA’s structure over the past year was to our four District Service Teams — North, South, East and West. They have become five Regional Servicing Teams, each with their own manager, to align with ONA’s existing five regions.
Regional Labour Relations Assistants (LRAs), so crucial to the functioning of these teams, will now report to the Manager, LRAs/Projects, which ensures they have their own manager who understands and identifies with their work. This will provide enhanced support to the LRAs and foster cross-team collaboration and even more effective administration service.
To enhance coverage in Region 2 (eastern Ontario), a new Port Hope office has been established, becoming ONA’s 10th regional office in the province, along with our provincial office in Toronto. That office is expected to officially open in late 2022 to serve members in this rapidly growing area.
Virtual Education Here to Stay
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, ONA found creative ways to maintain open communication and provide services that at one point had exclusively been provided in person. We successfully learned to adjust to virtual technology for a variety of endeavours, including meetings, education and even rallies — all of which our members eagerly embraced.
Virtual technology has been so successful, improving efficiency and saving on costs, that ONA will continue to use it for various activities, while most of our workshops are offered virtually by our Member Education Team (formerly Member Education and Events Team before it was divided into two teams this past year — Member Education Team and Member Experience/Events Team — to focus on the respective services provided by each).
While ONA believes nothing can beat in-person experiences where possible, digital workshops remove barriers and ensure members can access educational opportunities from their own locations, no matter how remote.
IT Application Modernization Project
A cornerstone of ONA’s organizational change has been our efforts to modernize our information technology (IT).
Our Application Modernization Project was launched in April 2021, and during the past year we successfully developed our new self-service online member portal. Officially known as Access ONA, the portal offers members a convenient and secure one-stop shop to register for education, learn about your Bargaining Unit, submit requests and maintain personal records. The portal gives members more control over your information and union membership, while building a stronger relationship with ONA through direct interaction.
Access ONA also contains management tools for Local and Bargaining Unit leaders. Leaders can carry out your roles through the portal, including submitting changes within your Locals and viewing up-to-date information on your members. Information that had been contained in the Executive Section of ONA’s website for our leaders has now been migrated to Access ONA.
This is just the beginning for Access ONA as more features, functionality and content will be rolled out in future phases of the Application Modernization Project.