THUNDER BAY — Public health nurses working for the Thunder Bay District Health Unit walked off the job Tuesday morning.
The strike by 58 members of the Ontario Nurses Association followed an unsuccessful day of bargaining through a provincial mediator Monday.
"Our public health nurses are highly educated and skilled, and provide health promotion programs, prevent illness and injury and protect residents from communicable and infectious disease outbreaks...It is disappointing that they have been put in the position by their employer and been forced to withdraw services," said ONA President Vicki McKenna.
The ONA said the Thunder Bay nurses are the lowest-paid public health nurses in Ontario.
They have been working without a contract since December 31, 2016.
Becky Bridgman, a public health nurse and bargaining unit president for ONA, said it is surreal for the nurses to be out on the picket line.
"But they are dedicated and they are passionate about this," she said. "It’s more than just wages. It’s a matter of relationship building. We have a lot of years to make up for poor contracts from our employer."
According to Bridgman, management at the TBDHU did show some movement during contract talks, but it just wasnt enough for the members to accept and by being on the picket line now, it shows that they expect more.
Bridgman advises patients of the Health Unit that services could be disrupted because of hte work action.
"I would advise people to call to see if service is available just so they don’t come down here and waste their time," she said.
"There’s only four nurse managers in that building and 58 nurses out here, so that is a lot of work for four people, so I hope they realize the impact on the community and they get us back to work as soon as possible."
The TBDHU issued a statement outlining how services will be disrupted during the strike:
A strike of our public health nurses means that some of our programs and services will continue while others are suspended or altered. Please note that some delays in the services provided can be expected. The following public health programs and services will be suspended until further notice*:
- Nurse practitioner clinics
- Street Nursing
- Immunization and travel health clinics
- Breastfeeding clinics
- Prenatal classes
- Parenting sessions, workshops and events
- Healthy Babies Healthy Children program
- Flu clinics
- Some School Health programming (includes classroom presentations and curriculum support)
- Workplace Health program
- Dental hygiene clinics for low-risk children
- Take Control Smoking Cessation clinics
- Branch Office Nursing services
The Sexual Health Clinics, although operating, will be limited in capacity and we expect service delays. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience and understanding. For updates on our service adjustments and further details on specific services during the ONA labour disruption, please phone the main office at (807) 625-5900 or toll-free 1-888-294-6630.
*Public health programs and service delivery will be subject to change without notice.
(With files from Doug Diaczuk)