The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) is welcoming an arbitration decision released today that includes the most significant wage increases for its more than 65,000 hospital-sector registered nurses (RNs) and health-care professionals in decades, while also noting that this is just the first step in forging better working conditions for those on the front lines. The arbitrator’s decision calls the increases “long overdue and meaningful,” acknowledges that wages have fallen behind over the past decade and play a significant role in the ability to retain and recruit more nurses.
The arbitration decision provides average wage increases of 11 per cent over two years. When added to two additional recent arbitration decisions stemming from the overturn of Bill 124 – wage suppression legislation passed by the Ford government – Ontario hospital RNs and health-care professionals will receive wage increases that average 16 per cent from March 31, 2023 to April 1, 2024. This amounts to an average hourly wage increase of approximately $5 to $7.
ONA President Erin Ariss, RN, says that “this decision is a first step to righting past wrongs, and bringing hospitals nurses’ compensation up to where it should be. In his decision, Arbitrator Kaplan explicitly recognizes that improving wages is among the best ways to recruit and retain desperately needed nurses and begin to fix the nursing shortage. ONA members have been organizing across the province to push for better wages to improve staffing and patient care. This time, we were heard.”
In a first for health-care contracts in Ontario, the arbitrator has also provided dedicated isolation pay. This ensures salary continuation in the event of exposure to communicable diseases, such as COVID-19, recognizing health-care workers are at heightened risk.
“I give full credit for this significant arbitration decision to our front-line members and our extraordinary bargaining team,” says Ariss. “The historic engagement of hospital nurses across the province in recent months represents a new era for the profession. This new contract will not fix staffing shortages overnight, especially with a government pursuing a disastrous privatization agenda. The fight for better patient care is only beginning.”
ONA is the union representing 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals, as well as 18,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.