Tbnewswatch Local News
Saturday July 4 2015
1:02 PM EDT
2014-02-19 at 17:01

Wages a sticking point between nurses and health units

Health unit nurses walked an information picket Wednesday afternoon.
Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com
Health unit nurses walked an information picket Wednesday afternoon.
By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

Nurses at health units across the district say it's unfair that they're the lowest paid in the province.

Nearly 60 public health nurses represented by the Ontario Nurses Association have been without a contract since the end of 2012.

Local 14 representative Michelle McColl said over several meetings with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit a lot of ground has been covered, but admits that wages area a sticking point.

McColl said her members work hard and are tired of being the lowest paid in Ontario. Management hasn't come close to matching wages with nurses at other district health units.

"We think that's deplorable," McColl said on an information picket outside of the health unit Wednesday afternoon.

ONA has asked for a provincial conciliator but that might not be until May, which is too long to go without a contract McColl said. 

Health unit CEO Doug Heath said the bargaining process has been normal so far. He understands that nurses are looking provincially when it comes to wages but that's not what the health unit is using for comparison.

"We're looking at a local market and equity within the health unit, that's where we're going to have to work through the bargaining process," he said.

Heath said the two sides can get together anytime to keep talking. They've always had a good relationship with tough negotiations at bargaining time he said.

McColl is also worried that lower wages hurts the health unit and the community by not attracting skilled nurses.

"We're not getting that skill base here in the community," she said.

Health unit nurses run everything from sexual health programs to cancer screening with a focus on health promotion and prevention.

"It's to avoid you coming to the hospital," McColl said. "This is what public health is about.


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Maybel says:
For sunshine valley girl and all others...not all public health nurses work in health promotion. The health protection nurses work in the community with very high risk clients who can cause physical harm including drug abusers, homeless, under housed persons. They have been hit, scratched and harmed as well . They provide nursing care under bridges, in bushes, even in drug houses. Sounds risky to me. Although they may not be providing direct care when a person is dying, at times they need to meet with the family of the dying patient, not only to provide education about the infectious disease the patient is dying from, but as well to inform the family of the risk of them catching the same infectious disease, and what needs to be done during this stressful time. All jobs have danger and stress, it's the situations that are different.
2/20/2014 6:38:49 PM
1962 says:
To sunshine alley girl. I appreciate your point of view, but please do some information checking before you make your comment. public health street nurses are out there regularly working with the highest risk members of our communities putting themselves at physical and emotional risk daily by working with the drug addicts, the homeless, and such. They have been threatened, hit, punched, scratched, had things thrown at them. The infectious disease nurses go into high risk environments, exposing themselves to actual infectious diseases, in order to help provide care to the public. The healthy baby nurses visit families in some very unsafe conditions. This is what public health nurses across the province do, and our local public health nurses are just asking to be paid the same as their colleagues.
2/20/2014 6:21:46 PM
sunshinevalleygirl says:
Maybe the reason is the actual work they do compared to other nurses.
Are you attacked, hit, scratched, yelled at, do you wash patients, change their diapers, deal with families while the patient is dying?
My daughter has been punched, sratched, screamed at, swore at, all on the job at the LPH. Their job is dangerous compared to the health unit counterparts, so I'm sorry if I think they should be paid more.
2/20/2014 2:56:42 PM
amobee says:
Maybe you don't understand what health unit nurses do?

Think: Street Nurse- roaming back streets, behind homeless shelters, providing care to Thunder's Bays most vulnerable while they are often intoxicated and/or aggressive.

Think: Sexual Health Nurse- convincing someone that they need to be tested for HIV because they were named as a contact.

Think: Home Visiting Nurse- visiting vulnerable populations in their homes alone

Think Vaccine Preventable Disease Nurse- providing immunizations to screaming, crying children.

If you don't think a Public Health Nurse has ever been attacked, screamed at or swore at, maybe that's just because you don't know a Public Health Nurse?
2/20/2014 9:32:20 PM
westfort resident says:
Nobody seems to have a problem that physicians and surgeons make six-figure incomes, yet the public health nurses in TBay are labelled as "whiners". Public health nurses are essential and often travel throughout the TBay District. Many people do not have family doctors. These nurses provide essential services and should be compensated fairly.
2/20/2014 8:38:18 AM
gtecce says:
Nurses are the people that hit the ground running whenever there is a need. They drive in minus 35 Celcius temperatures to visit young families at risk, go into facilities and investigate outbreaks, sit in parking lots until 7 pm on a Friday night screening people who might have been exposed to an infectious disease offering medications and immunizations. They sit with people and explain results of tests which can be overwhelming and frightening. They have at times been threatened and ridiculed by people when advocating for healthy public policy and attempting to educate people about the benefits of public health measures such as immunization, water fluoridation, active transportation, non-smoking policies, breast feeding.
Nurses are the heart of public health. They are the team that are there to promote and protect the health and well-being of the citizens of Ontario.

2/19/2014 10:11:50 PM
averageguy says:
The management at TBDHU doesn't seem to have any difficulty rewarding themselves work with pay increases and perks. All the while these hard working professionals are in the trenches doing the work that serves the public directly.
S Duncan, you're just not very smart.
ibrando, did you ever hear the expression "if you pay peanuts you get monkeys"? Well its not true. In this case if you pay poorly, you get nobody. Health care professionals will be reluctant to work at TBDHU and Thunder Bay will suffer in the long term.
These people should be celebrated for doing the job they have been doing at a non competitive wage while watching their bosses rake it in.
2/19/2014 8:09:27 PM
murillorules says:
The nurses working for the local Health Unit are paid a fair wage for local conditions. The wage compares to those working at other local government funded agencies for comparable work, and any time there is a job opening at the HU there is always a flood of applicants. The offer on the table for the nurses is fair and includes a decent wage increase. The province has mandated 0% wage increases for funded agencies like the Health Unit, and thus anything the nurses are getting is coming from increased municipal levies otherwise known as property taxes. I guess we can't blame the union for asking for more, that is what unions do, but where do you think the money would come from?
2/19/2014 7:38:42 PM
countryguy2 says:
The nurses are the lowest paid, and compared to the Hospital, or even some LTC facilities, they get paid the least. The comment about attracting more skilled staff is because RNs are staying where the pay is better. It's not a matter of whining because they don't get what other's get, it's called equity! S Duncan, are you a laid off worker with too much time on your hands? you reply to everything and harass people because they are fighting for what is right. You need to get off your computer and step out into the real world.
2/19/2014 7:35:25 PM
Ed itw says:
Maybe the TBDHU is the leader in the field.
All the other HU's in the province should lower their wages to match TBay.
2/19/2014 6:30:28 PM
1962 says:
Very saddened by the above comments by s Duncan and ibrando. These nurses are not whiners. If you did some research, you would have found out that they have been falling behind their colleagues in other health units for a decade now, an d yet have continued to provide the community with their professional services without any interruption. Remember SARS? The recent Pandemic? The deadly iGAS community outbrea a few years ago? All those influenza immunization clinics year after year?. It was these dedicated professionals that QUIETLY protected you. Not only are they the lowest paid public health nurses in the province, the also are the lowest paid unionized RN's in the community. How's that for a local comparison. Time to recognize and compensate these well educated, and yes, HIGHLY SKILLED professionals.
2/19/2014 6:29:45 PM
Tiredofit says:
Sadly we expect nothing less from S Duncan.
2/20/2014 6:28:44 AM
Baor says:
Dont be too saddened. Duncan or pie or what ever he choses to call himself is merely our entertainment troll and is a reflection of his many tbnewswatch personas.
2/20/2014 9:06:07 AM
ibrando says:
So Michelle, let me see if I understand you correctly. You claim the nurses in this district are the lowest paid in all of Ontario. You claim because of the low pay, skilled nurses cannot be attracted. Therefore, the nurses in the district must not be skilled if they are working at the present wage. No need to increase pay based on your comments and current skill level. Negotiations closed, carry on.
2/19/2014 5:19:12 PM
Eastender says:
Very simplistic reasoning there. The statement was that the low wages are not attracting the most skilled nurses, meaning that the most skilled nurses will be attracted to other areas of practice, leaving the health unit, to choose from the least skilled. This means tnat once a nurse aquires experience, she/he are more than likely to move on leaving the health unit with mostly less experienced nurses. Less experienced does not imply inadeqequate, o
2/19/2014 6:25:39 PM
Eastender says:
Your logic is that of a child. We all know that graduates of any discipline have passed the required exams, and are equaly qualified. But once placed in a working environment they pick up many practical skills that were not taught in school. As these skills are aquired, better offers are available in different work environments, that offer higher pay, leaving the health unit and its patients to depend on less experienced people, not less skilled, but less experience, which obviously would have an effect on patient care. Your implication that the nurses at the health centre are not skilled is an indication of your lack of ability to reason, and therefore your conclusion is insignificant.
2/19/2014 6:37:24 PM
nova1 says:
This is pretty asinine. People are not always compelled to "go where the money goes". Further, to suggest correlation between relative nurse "skill" and wages is absurd.
You're comment might be an attempt at humor, but is insulting to the people who are striving for a level playing field for nurses working in Thunder Bay. If you're in favor of having skilled jobs move out of Thunder Bay, and going back to a pulp and paper town-- remind me how that worked out last time?
2/19/2014 8:06:16 PM
S Duncan says:
Just like spoiled children!

I wahhhhaaahh want what that other person has wwahhhhh.

Grow up! Way to go whiners, when people don't respect you just look back at times like this and you'll see why. You're a bunch of overpaid whiners.
2/19/2014 5:11:17 PM
amobee says:
I think this is really disrespectful. LOWEST PAID nurses in the province. Requesting equality isn't really whining.
2/19/2014 5:44:44 PM
Eastender says:
Duncan, every one wants their fair share of the pie. When house prices go up, we all raise the selling price of our houses. When rents go up, do you not raise your rent to match the market? Prices for products continually increase, to reflect market demands. Unionized workers have the right to withdraw their services to create market demand. Its a free market not only for the providers of goods but also for the providers of services. You restrict the supply of something, and the price goes up, it should work for wage earners as well as for producers of goods.

Are you saying that only the priviledged few, like corporations and capitalists should have the right to manipulate the market. If so what possibly could be your justification for confering such priviledge on these chosen few, and denying others the same equality?
2/19/2014 6:52:13 PM
Skinny says:
Why do people automatically say someone is whining when they try to improve their working conditions? Why do they also say that they are overpaid? What is their salary? How does it compare with others in this field elsewhere? Do we really believe our nurses should be the lowest paid? I think YOU whine too much, probably because you aren't in a position to fight for better working conditions and have no respect for those who will.
2/20/2014 8:10:17 AM
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