Public health nurses in Peterborough say they could be locked out or forced to strike by the end of this month.
On Tuesday evening, nurses working for Peterborough Public Health will hold an information picket outside the Peterborough Memorial Centre prior to the Peterborough Petes’ OHL game.
The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) says the 31 nurses at Peterborough Public Health have been without a contract since October 2017 and labour action may occur on Nov. 28. Public health nurses specialize in measures to prevent illnesses versus treating.
Andy Summers, regional vice-president of ONA, says the main issue is workload, and that the employer is “bleeding the workforce.”
“Usually we complain about money issues, but here it’s that the workplace is really, really lean,” Summers told Global Peterborough on Tuesday afternoon.
“I think the nurses have drawn the line and have decided they can no longer provide the quality of service that’s required or they want to give.”
Summers says a mediation session is scheduled later this month in hopes of reaching a compromise before Nov. 26. Two days later, there may be a lockout or strike.
“How far apart are we? I don’t think we are far (apart), but let’s see what the mediator has to say,” Summers said.
In a statement from Peterborough Public Health, Larry Stinson, director of operations, says the Board of Health remains committed to “bargaining in good faith and working towards a new contract.”
“We will be continuing our discussions with ONA when we meet with the mediator on November 26 to achieve a fair and respectful agreement for all,” he stated.
In a statement, ONA president Vicki McKenna, a registered nurse, says the “dedicated members” provided invaluable services to keep the community well and healthy.
“They provide chronic disease and injury prevention supports in our schools and community, monitor and prevent infectious disease outbreaks, provide program delivery, monitoring, investigations and counselling and health education to youth,” she said. “From the youngest babies to our elderly, as well as to the residents of Curve Lake and Hiawatha First Nations, our Public Health Nurses work to keep everyone in the County and City of Peterborough well.”
ONA represents more than 65,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals and 18,000 nursing student affiliates.
Fifty-eight nurses in Thunder Bay remain on strike since Oct. 16 after mediation efforts with the Thunder Bay Health Unit faltered. Summers says the nurses in the northern city are striking over wages which he said are the lowest in the province.
– More to come.