Supreme Court of Canada rules: A 15-year pursuit for fairness and equity for nursing home registered nurses concludes in ONA’s favour

October 15, 2021

TORONTO, October 15, 2021 – The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) is celebrating a momentous Supreme Court of Canada decision following a 15-year-long battle to maintain pay equity rights for registered nurses (RNs) working in private nursing homes.

A decision released on October 14, 2021 by the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) – the highest court in the country – dismissed the for-profit Nursing Homes’ and the Attorney-General of Ontario’s application for appeal to the SCC. The Ontario Court of Appeal decision stands, which notes that RNs in for-profit nursing homes have the right to be compared to the Homes for the Aged nurses and a male comparator for pay equity maintenance.

“This is a huge victory for ONA,” ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN, says. “We have never backed down on this case, and our persistence and energy to fight for pay equity have paid off. This is a very important win for all working women in female-dominated workplaces, which access the proxy-comparison method to establish and maintain pay equity.”

The proxy sections of the Pay Equity Act provide a way for women to achieve pay equity where there are no male comparators in their workplace. Under the proxy method, public-sector organizations with no male job classes are able to access a male comparator’s wage rates from another public-sector organization that has already achieved pay equity. Under the Act, the proxy employer for nursing homes is the municipal homes for the aged.

“We are thrilled that we can now move forward once and for all and we can begin to implement the Court of Appeal decision,” says McKenna. “The court has agreed with ONA. Our members – as well as all working women in female-dominated workplaces in the public sector – will see that their work is valued and receive the compensation that they are entitled to. This decision will greatly improve workers’ wages in the sector, which can be helpful with recruitment and retention efforts.”

Adds McKenna: “The Ford government could have conceded this case several years ago, which would have saved hundreds of hours of time and thousands of dollars in legal fees and court costs. Instead, this government pursued every legal avenue possible to quash our members’ right to gender equality and pay equity. The Supreme Court of Canada is the final stop in the legal process so now we can move forward.”

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

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