Thunder Bay public health nurses back to work

Public health nurses at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit are back on the job after a weeks-long strike.

New 4-year collective bargaining agreement ratified by both sides

A strike by public health nurses employed by the Thunder Bay District Health Unit has ended. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

Public health nurses at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit are back on the job after a weeks-long strike.

The 58 nurses had been on the picket line since Oct. 16. A new four-year collective bargaining agreement was ratified by the health unit board on Wednesday, while the nurses — represented by the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) — ratified the new deal on the weekend.

"There's lots of work to do ahead, but they're positive," said ONA president Vicki McKenna. "It's been really hard. I know it's hard on everyone."

McKenna said the new agreement addresses many of the nurses' concerns about workload, staffing issues and wages.

The union has said the Thunder Bay nurses are the lowest-paid public health nurses in the province, but they'll make up some ground under the new agreement, McKenna said.

"The agreement that they reached does bring them closer to their next comparator, to their next health unit that they were closest to, which is Algoma," she said. "It doesn't catch them up totally."

However, McKenna said, the agreement does include wage increases over the course of its term.

'Truly glad to be back'

The nurses returned to work on Tuesday, she said.

"There's lots to catch up on," McKenna said. "There's always a few glitches and issues ... coming back to work after being out on strike, but those things, they're working on."

"They're truly glad to be back providing care in the community."

The nurses' previous contract expired in December 2016.

Health unit representatives didn't return a request for comment on Thursday.