By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Nearly 2,700 nurses and medical workers represented by the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) returned to work on Tuesday after a 16-day strike was sent to arbitration.
Medical professionals in nine Community Care Access Centres (CCAC) across the province walked off the job on Jan. 30, approximately 170 of them from the Whitby CCAC. These healthcare professionals have been without a contract since March 2014.
The Whitby branch, which serves all of Durham Region, acts as the head office for the Central East catchment area, which stretches to Scarborough in the west, Haliburton in the north and Campbellford and Port Hope in the east.
According to a news release from the ONA, the option of arbitration was suggested months ago.
“We always believed our offer of several months ago to go to interest arbitration was fair and reasonable and best for our patients that we serve,” states ONA president Linda Haslam-Stroud in a news release. “Unfortunately, it took our member’s resolve when forced out on the picket lines to bring the government and employers to their senses.”
The ONA is seeking a 1.4 per cent wage increase, akin to what approximately 57,000 nurses in other sectors have received. The ONA represents 60,000 nurses and health professionals, along with 14,000 nursing student affiliates who provide care in hosptials, long-term care facilities, public health facilities and clinics.
“There is still time for these employers to step up to the plate and do the right thing – give CCAC health professionals age improvements like ONA’s 57,000 RNs and allied health professionals have already received,” Haslam Stroud states in the same release.
Gail Scala, communications director for Central East CCAC catchment area, says the centres are pleased to have the workers back on the job.
“We’re happy to have them back,” she says. “We would have been pleased if we had been able to negotiate a settlement, but it is now in arbitration and staff are back to work.”
In a previous interview while the strike was underway, Scala explained the centres we’re working hard to manage the workload during the disruption and that existing patients saw no service interruptions.
“We’re managing our urgent referrals and working very collaboratively with our service providers and our hospital and long-term care partners in meeting the needs of our patients,” she previously told The Express.
Scala explained the in-home care workers who work on contract to provide physiotherapy and other medical services continue to do so, but the care coordinators who put together care plans and do clinical assessments for patients are those who were on strike.
“We’re continuing to provide services to our patients who are currently receiving any in-home services as well as being able to, through our contingency planning, be able to place individuals into long-term care,” she said.