THUNDER BAY - After five weeks on the picket line, nurses at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit will be returning to work.
A tentative agreement between the 58 members of the Ontario Nurses Association and the Health Unit was reached late Friday night and Becky Bridgman, a public health nurse and bargaining unit president for ONA, said the members ratified the agreement Saturday morning.
“The nurses are excited to get back to work,” she said. “There will be a transition time and hopefully things go smoothly when we go back inside.”
Bridgman said she was not able to provide any details of the contract at this time but expects they will be released at a later date.
The strike began on Oct. 16 when the 58 nurses took to the picket line after being without a contract since Dec. 31, 2016.
Representatives from the ONA said the nurses in Thunder Bay were the lowest paid public health nurses in Ontario.
According to Bridgman, the new contract was recommended to the members because it helps close the gap between Thunder Bay and other communities.
“It did help bring us closer to close the gap between us and Algoma and I certainly believe the Health Unit came forward with as much as they could,” she said. “I believe they presented everything that they had and I was confident that they didn’t have much more.”
On Nov. 12, a new mediator was appointed to the labour dispute, which the ONA said was an encouraging step.
“I don’t know what motivated the employer to present the offer, if it was the mediator or the strike itself,” Bridgman said. “But he was definitely effective in it for sure.”
Bridgman said the Board of Health is expected to hold a vote to ratify the agreement on Wednesday.
“I know our nurses are up and ready to go,” Bridgman said. “Five weeks doesn’t really stop us from knowing how to do our job. Hopefully it isn’t too long and hopefully clients can resume coming to the health unit.”