n Thursday thousands of nurses and supporters held demonstrations outside of health care providers and Conservative MPP’s offices at 40 locations across Ontario. These actions are part of a campaign to highlight the worsening working conditions and capped wages for Ontario’s 60,000 nurses. Their union, the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) is negotiating a new contract with their employer, the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA).
Ontario has the lowest nurse-to-patient ratio in the country. This results in higher workloads and more patients per nurse, affecting the quality of care they receive. Throughout the pandemic there has been an increase in nurses leaving the profession.
About 50 nurses and supporters picketed outside of the Toronto General Hospital Thursday afternoon.
Luiza Minea, a Local Coordinator for Mount Sinai Hospital, said she and her colleagues have not felt supported by the Ontario government since the pandemic began. “We didn't feel supported on the front line. And we need [better] wages now. We need [better] staffing now. We need to be able to provide the care that we want to provide by having the right work load and the right staffing,” Minea said.
Under the Ford Conservatives’ Bill 124 public sector wage increases in Ontario have been capped at 1 per cent for the past three years. Inflation was never as low as 1 per cent, and has been between 5.9 and 7.9 per cent for over a year. Healthcare professionals are receiving a real pay cut across the board as their experience and workloads increase.
Elizabeth Romano is the bargaining unit president for Local 97 Toronto Western Hospital, which is part of the University Health Network. “The nurses who have worked on hospital row have been suffering through the pandemic,” Romano told The Hoser. “Nurses have experienced wage constraints, high patient acuity and higher patient ratios [throughout the pandemic] and we're fighting to make sure that we can continue to provide safe patient care.”
The ONA has also set up an online email form where members of the public can contact their MPPs asking them to urge the OHA and hospital CEOs to strike a fair deal with ONA workers.
The next public action in this campaign to support nurses will be held outside the Sheraton Centre in Toronto on March 2 at 12pm during ONA and OHA bargaining.