Windsor

Windsor-Essex public health nurses 'overwhelmingly' vote to strike at midnight

As of March 7 at 10:30 p.m., public health nurses in Windsor-Essex have voted to begin striking at midnight.

Bargaining unit president says the main problem is wage negotiations

Negotiations between Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and Ontario Nurses Association broke down. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

As of 10 p.m. Thursday, Public health nurses in Windsor-Essex have voted to begin striking at midnight.

The 86 nurse practitioners, public health nurses and registered practical nurses are employed by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, and will walk off the job on March 8.

The members are represented by the Ontario Nurses Association.

"We basically gave up everything we were asking for to try to get a wage increase, and they never budged," said Barb Deter, bargaining unit president for ONA.

"It was overwhelmingly unanimous to go on strike."

Theresa Marentette, CEO Windsor Essex County Health Unit, says in a statement it was ONA that ended negotiations last month. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Bargaining for the new collective agreement began in September last year.

On March 6, the CEO and chief nursing officer at WECHU issued a statement about the negotiations, saying there is a "growing demand for public health services" and that resouces need to be focused on expanding sevices and programs.

"This means we are simply not in a position to meet the Ontario Nursing Association's demands for unaffordable pay increases at this time," wrote Marentette.

However, Deter said WECHU never offered more than the initial 1 per cent wage increase.

"Because they wouldn't negotiate, right now, all of the staff are just feeling so disrespected," she said.

"We don't want to be out there. We want to keep giving our residents the services that they need to keep them healthy and well, and it's not going to happen now."

According to Deter, the 86 public health nurses are not considered an essential service and will be officially on strike as of midnight.

The health unit is warning the public there may be service disruptions in the coming days in the event of a strike.

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