Striking community and home health-care workers will return to work Tuesday, after opting to send their labour dispute with the province to arbitration.
The decision, announced Sunday evening by Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins, comes after months of failed negotiations between more than 3,000 members of the Ontario Nurses Association and the provincially-funded Community Care Access Centres.
Workers from 9 of Ontario’s 14 CCACs hit picket lines Jan. 30.
The dispute is mainly over wages; the ONA wants a 1.4-per-cent salary increase each year for two years for its CCAC employees, which include registered practical nurses, rapid response registered nurses, care co-ordinators and direct care nurse practitioners. The ONA claims the increase is on par with what CCAC hospital counterparts make.
ONA President Linda Haslam-Stoud told the Star she’s pleased the matter is going to arbitration; however she described a “difficult” negotiation process. She said the ONA has been pushing for arbitration for months but have been rejected until now.
“These employers . . . have wasted taxpayer money, they’ve prevented our patients from getting the care they desperately require and they’ve basically broken any kind of working relationship they had with these very educated professionals that were keeping the health-care system glued together.”
In a statement, CCAC spokeswoman Megan Allen-Lamb said the care centres are looking forward to being able to once again provide a “full range of care to patients.”
Hoskins, meanwhile, highlighted the value of home and community health-care professionals, who provide care to 650,000 Ontarians through CCACs.
“They are essential to continuing the transformation of home and community care in Ontario. We cannot do this without them,” he said in a statement. “It is my hope that a resolution can be quickly reached to ensure that people can continue to access the quality home and community services they need now and in the future.”