Bargaining 101: ONA’s central contract wins continue to cascade after four decades

October 6, 2020

The date July 4, 1974 could be argued as one of the most significant dates in ONA’s history. It is on this date that ONA’s first central collective agreement was awarded to registered nurses who work in 41 Ontario hospitals. Nurses’ wage increases ranged from 33 to 50 per cent.

This first agreement was just the beginning, a solid foundation laid to support and uphold subsequent contracts that have been awarded to ONA members since that early July day in 1974.

Over the next four-plus decades, ONA central contracts have always moved forward in terms of wages, benefits and working conditions.

“At a basic level, there are two main goals in central negotiations: to achieve improvements from the previous contract, and to ensure that no hard-won improvements that we have achieved are taken away,” notes ONA President Vicki McKenna. “I’m proud to say that we have never had any of our central bargaining improvements removed from our contracts.”

Employers that have faced ONA at a central bargaining table have tried to undermine negotiations by trying to roll back the hard-fought gains in our collective agreements. In fact, it has been a recent trend for employers to try to roll back wages.

“During the hospital rounds in the 2010s, the employer had proposed wage rollbacks for our members,” notes ONA CEO Beverly Mathers. “These rollbacks were very significant, as high as a more than a 10 per cent cut across the board. Of course, we soundly rejected all of the harsh proposals, and won.”

ONA has fought for and won many achievements related to working conditions on behalf of our members during central bargaining, including:

  • The professional responsibility clause. Established in 1977, this groundbreaking award gives registered nurses a formal process to pursue complaints with employers when nurses believe patient care is at risk. Thousands of workplace patient care issues have been successfully resolved as a result of this process.
  • Significant wage increases over four decades, including in 1991, hospital sector members won an up to 29-per-cent wage increase.
  • Improvements in premium pay, shift, weekend and on-call premiums.
  • The achievement of a student supervision premium.
  • Central language that is incorporated into collective agreements to protect members from harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and protection from discipline/termination.
  • Gold-standard layoff language.
  • Retiree Benefits.
  • Paid professional learning.
  • Industry-leading protection from health and safety hazards.
  • Salary top-up for pregnancy and parental leave.

“Our first stepping stones way back in 1974 led to cascading achievements for our members in wages, benefits, and working conditions,” explains McKenna. “ONA has a rich history in central bargaining, and we will continue to demand the best for our members at these central tables.”


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