Hospital Arbitration Decision Released: Registered Nurses, Health-Care Professionals Enraged by Ford Law that Cuts their Pay

September 20, 2021

TORONTO, September 20, 2021 – Tens of thousands of the province’s hospital-sector registered nurses and health-care professionals are again enraged and are being punished by a Ford government law – Bill 124 – that restricts their maximum annual total wage and any compensation increase to no more than one per cent, a pay cut when inflation is factored in.

The Ontario Nurses’ Association’s (ONA) 60,000 hospital members have received an arbitration decision of an insulting one-per-cent total wage and compensation increase for the next year; they are in the third of three years under the Ford government’s Bill 124, which targets predominantly female public-sector workers. Under the law, pay and other compensation increases are limited to a total maximum of one per cent for every year for a period of three years; the one per cent includes any benefit improvements – such as mental health support improvements so desperately needed as these RNs and health-care professionals suffer burn out, mental health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

“It is difficult to overstate how deeply damaging and insulting this law is to our incredibly courageous front-line RNs and health-care professionals,” says ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN. “Our members have continued to show up and hold the front lines through the worst health crisis in more than a century. In many cases, they have not been provided with sufficient personal protective equipment, have feared for their lives and those of their families, and many have incurred extra out-of-pocket living expenses to move away from their families to protect them. This government has taken away their rights and enabled their employers to send them to other facilities without their agreement, have been denied time off and have been witness to horrors the public cannot imagine as the pandemic raced across the province. We could not even negotiate improved mental health benefits because the costs are more than allowable under the legislation.”

McKenna notes that the Ford government specifically excluded male-dominated professions from the legislation. RNs and health-care professionals have been targeted by successive governments for more than a decade when it comes to their wages.

“Our front-line hospital RNs do not have the right to strike,” says McKenna. “And now with Bill 124, we can no longer freely bargain without significant government interference. While ONA has launched a Charter Challenge of this law, it will be a long process. The Ford government should do the right thing and – as our members and ONA have demanded – repeal this law now. To fail to do so is to risk losing many more desperately needed nurses at a time when the province and its patients need them. We are seeing RNs leaving the profession in droves because of the disrespect this government has shown to its front-line ‘heros.’ Ontario’s health-care system cannot afford to lose any more RNs. This arbitrated decision will further drive RNs elsewhere.”

ONA is the union representing more than 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals, as well as more than 18,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.

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Katherine Russo