Bill 124 Reopener Decisions Not Nearly Enough to Retain, Recruit Nurses and Health-Care Professionals in Ontario
April 28, 2023
TORONTO, ON., April 28, 2023 – The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) is responding to three recent arbitration decisions stemming from the overturn of Bill 124 by expressing frustration, noting that the resulting wage adjustments are not nearly enough to retain and recruit registered nurses (RNs) and health-care workers to a system suffering from severe shortages.
“ONA members have spent years fighting Bill 124 and they have taken real wage cuts because of this unconstitutional attack on our rights,” says ONA Interim Provincial President Bernie Robinson, RN. “The retroactive wage adjustments from these recent decisions are simply too little, too late to address the significant health-care staffing shortages that are hurting patient care. They utterly fail to address the relentless decay in working conditions for a workforce that has been on the front lines for Ontarians throughout a deadly pandemic, nor do they do anything to address existing gender inequity.”
The arbitration decisions come after ONA’s successful challenge of Bill 124, which suppressed wage increases, was found to be unconstitutional by Ontario’s Superior Court in 2022. ONA was successful in achieving reopener clauses in collective agreements, allowing the union to seek retroactive wages should the bill be overturned.
Based on these decisions, ONA members working in the charitable homes sector will receive an additional 0.75 per cent in each of three years, effective July 1 of 2021, 2022 and 2023. ONA hospital-sector members will receive additional wage increases of 0.75 per cent effective April 1, 2020, 1.0 per cent effective April 1, 2021 and 2.0 per cent, effective April 1, 2022. In addition, the wage grid for nurses between years eight and 25 has been condensed. The most recent arbitration continued to show wage restraint when the facts demonstrated much more was warranted and essential to retain nurses. Hospital members and their dependents achieved badly needed access to unlimited mental health coverage, a vital achievement for a workforce experiencing high rates of burnout and PTSD.
Robinson says the increases do not reflect the value of RNs and health-care professionals, and calls for much more work to be done to address the severe nursing shortage in Ontario. “We continue to call on the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) to settle a respectful contract with hospital nurses in the current round of bargaining, and that must include the better staffing, better pay and better care that other Canadian provinces are offering.” ONA recently completed the current round of bargaining with the OHA without reaching a negotiated agreement. Arbitration will be held May 2 and 3; ONA will await another decision, expected this summer. Robinson says a negotiated settlement has not been reached in more than 12 years – proving there is a continued lack of willingness to reach a deal and instead relying on arbitration.
ONA is the union representing 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.