TORONTO — The Ontario nurses association is lashing out after an arbitration decision giving 60,000 of its hospital members a total wage and compensation increase of one per cent for the next year.
Under Bill 124, pay and other compensation increases are limited to one per cent every year for three years.
This is the third year in which it applies.
The ONA issued a statement Monday saying its hospital-sector registered nurses and health-care professionals "are again enraged and are being punished by a Ford government law" which it said primarily affects female public-sector workers.
It said that because of inflation, its members are facing a pay cut.
The union said the one per cent increase permitted by Bill 124 includes any benefit improvements such as mental health support which it said are badly needed as RNs and other professionals suffer burnout, mental health issues and PTSD due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's difficult to overstate how deeply damaging and insulting this law is to our incredibly courageous front-line RNs and health-care professionals," said ONA President Vicki McKenna.
She said that in many cases, nurses haven't been provided with sufficient personal protective equipment, and many have had to move away from their families to keep them safe.
McKenna also charged that the legislation specifically excludes male-dominated professions.
"Our front-line hospital RNs do not have the right to strike. And now with Bill 124, we can no longer freely bargain without significant government interference," she said.
The ONA has launched a challenge against the law under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but McKenna called on the government to rescind the legislation.
Failing to do so, she said, will risk losing many more nurses at a time when Ontario needs them even more.
McKenna said RNs have left the profession "in droves," and the arbitration decision will drive even more of them elsewhere.