Ontario hospital nurses start contract talks, plan 'escalating actions'

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The Ontario Nurses' Association has started bargaining a new contract today for hospital nurses and the union is planning a series of actions to bolster its push for higher wages.

The nurses, and other broader public sector workers, have been subject for three years to a wage restraint law known as Bill 124, which capped increases at one per cent a year.

Bernie Robinson, the interim president of the ONA, says the last contract left nurses feeling disrespected and devalued, and in this round of negotiations the union is seeking "far more."

As talks begin, the union says it's planning a series of "escalating actions," starting with having nurses wear stickers while at work that highlight the bargaining priorities of better wages, better staffing and better care.

Late next month, nurses will begin holding information pickets at hospitals as well as at offices of members of provincial parliament and the ONA is planning what it's calling a "shut down protest" on March 2 outside the Toronto hotel where bargaining is taking place.

The nurses do not have the right to strike and Robinson says they will not be engaging in illegal walkouts.

The Ontario Hospital Association has said it greatly values nurses and hopes to achieve a "voluntarily, mutually agreed-upon collective agreement."