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Wages a sticking point between nurses and health units

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.
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Health unit nurses walked an information picket Wednesday afternoon. (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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