Striking Health Unit Nurses Attend County Council

It's week six for striking nurses from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and they continue to keep the issue in the spotlight.

Ontario Nurses Association members have been a fixture outside council meetings, but they mixed it up Wednesday night. Around 40 of the association's 86 members attended Essex County Council donning shirts that read, "Fairness for Nurses, New Mandate Now."

According association Vice President Dana Boyd, nursing associations from across Canada have stepped up to soften the financial blow to her membership — now the ONA wants to remind council the public is suffering with every passing week.

"Kids are not getting the shots that they need to get, follow ups are not being done on sexually transmitted infections, new moms and babies aren't being visited, and prenatal clients," she says. 

Essex County Warden and Health Board Chair Gary McNamara is reminding striking nurses there's no funding for services that aren't being offered.

"The intel we're getting from the province is that our budget has not been approved. That budget is basically based on services so there's a huge risk," added McNamara, who goes on to say funding for the entire 2019 budget year is in Jeopardy.

So far three contract offers have been rejected by the union, with the main sticking point being salary. Association members are standing firm on their request for an equitable percentage wage increase as the municipal workers in male-dominated professions.

"We hope that both party's come to the table and negotiate," Boyd added.

McNamara says — the bottom line is — the best offer is on the table.

"There is no extra cash, everybody thinks there's a hidden package of money somewhere, there isn't, and that's the reality," says McNamara. "It's left up to them. You heard my comment tonight about EMS and what's happening there and with long-term care — it's pretty evident that in Queen's Park the purse strings are pretty tight."

No word from either side on when negotiations might continue.