Thunder Bay

'There's got to be a settlement there' Thunder Bay Health Coalition says as nurses strike continues

The head of a healthcare advocacy group in Thunder Bay, Ont., says he's concerned about what any long-term work stoppage by public health nurses at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit will mean for the regional hospital.

Chair Jules Tupker says he wants to see both sides back at the bargaining table

Jules Tupker is the chair of the Thunder Bay Health Coalition. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

The head of a healthcare advocacy group in Thunder Bay, Ont., says he's concerned about what any long-term work stoppage by public health nurses at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit will mean for the regional hospital.

Jules Tupker, the chair of the Thunder Bay Health Coalition, was one of several members of the public who attended the October meeting of the Thunder Bay District Health Unit's board on Wednesday. Tupker said he attended to "get a feel of what's happening here and see if there was any comments at all."

During the meeting, the board went into closed session to discuss, what chair Joe Virdiramo described, as a number of labour-related issues; he wouldn't confirm whether the strike was one of them. Virdiramo added that the board would have no comment on the labour dispute.

The strike was not discussed during the open session of the meeting.

"Our concern is what's happening to the public," Tupker said. "Obviously ... the health unit is very important to the public's health and we're always concerned; the hospital is in dire need of space and staff and all of a sudden, the health unit is out here and there's going to be people not getting immunizations and things like that."

"It's going to put more pressure on the hospital and that's a huge concern to us as the health coalition."
58 public health nurses with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit walked off the job Oct. 16, after one day of scheduled mediated talks failed to produce a new deal. (Heather Kitching / CBC)

Wages and staffing levels are two areas the Ontario Nurses Association, who represents the 58 striking nurses, said are at the core of the labour dispute, with the union charging that the Thunder Bay public health nurses are the lowest paid in the province. CBC News asked the health unit for comment about that on Tuesday but has not yet received a response.

Tupker said he wants to see the two sides back at the bargaining table.

"My union background says there's got to be a settlement there," he said.

The nurses association has said they're willing to go back to negotiations anytime, while the health unit has said that it's "committed to continuing to working with ONA to reach a fair agreement as soon as possible."

On Thursday morning, Lance Dyll, the health unit's director of corporate services told CBC News that they can't "speculate how long this process will take or comment on the next steps, but will continue to follow and respect the negotiating process."

With files from Heather Kitching