Media Statement: Striking Public Health Nurses, Constituents Denied Their Right to Speak to Council in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties, City of Belleville
August 25, 2023
AUGUST 25, 2023 – The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) is outraged by the denial of requests from public health nurses and a county resident to speak to elected county officials and city officials. County clerks for Hastings Council and Prince Edward Counties Council as well as the clerk for the City of Belleville cited the wish to not interfere with “ongoing collective bargaining” talks as the reason to deny the requests to address council members.
“There is no ongoing collective bargaining happening between the board of health and ONA. Negotiations ceased when the board of health failed to address the need to come to the bargaining table with a respectful and fair wage increase for nurses and rejected an extraordinary offer from the nurses to go to arbitration and avoid a strike,” said ONA President Erin Ariss, RN.
Hastings & Prince Edward County Public Health nurses are eager to return to providing care and services to their community and will do so as soon as their employer is prepared to return to the table with an offer that reflects their value and the current economic realities they face.
The denial of the request to speak to council members has broader implications for the people of these counties. A fundamental function of council is to hear the concerns of its constituents and act in their best interests. These council members have the democratic obligation to listen to those who reside within their areas.
“Residents should be extremely concerned that their councils are silencing nurses and those concerned about their local health care. Public health is of crucial importance to the community and council needs to hear how this board of health has refused to invest in front-line care by offering nurses a fair contract, despite a budget surplus and new funds coming in,” said Ariss. “Council members who sit on the board of health should recuse themselves if they find themselves in conflict. Silencing health-care advocates should never be an option in a fair and democratic society.”
ONA calls on these councils to immediately reverse the denials of their constituents to speak to those elected to represent their best interests.