Letter to Andrea Horwath, Leader, Official Opposition New Democratic Party of Ontario

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A red shield with Unifor U logo in the centre.

Andrea Horwath, Leader – Official Opposition
New Democratic Party of Ontario

Dear Andrea,

Re: Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) in Ontario

I am writing to you on behalf of the 4,000 Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) represented by Unifor who have stepped up during this pandemic for the people of Ontario.

These Unifor members have worked around the clock through code red outbreaks, dealt with the trauma associated with death and suffering, and have navigated the challenges of protecting their own health and safety in fast-changing work environments. RPNs have been putting their health and their families’ health at risk while caring for patients in crowded hospitals, and for vulnerable residents in long-term care, retirement homes, and other health care settings, while coping with the extraordinary amount of pressure that the pandemic has placed on the health care system.

These highly skilled nurses have stepped up in a big way, and yet, throughout the pandemic, they have had to fight for proper health and safety protections in their workplaces and have had their collective agreement rights superseded. Meanwhile, they are excluded from the temporary wage enhancement afforded to PSWs and most have been unfairly covered by the wage restraint legislation, Bill 124.

The temporary wage enhancement for PSWs is certainly well deserved and should be made permanent, but it has left very little gap between the wage of a PSW and an RPN. This is incredibly disheartening to an entire classification of nurses who have taken on added responsibility throughout this pandemic, and are needed more than ever to ensure we take care of system-wide backlogs.

The current government has called nurses “heroes” throughout this pandemic, but its actions have not reflected this sentiment. RPNs are leaving the health care system in droves because they are overworked and undervalued. They are frustrated and feel like they are simply are not respected.

I am requesting that you meet with me and a small number of Unifor’s RPN members. I think it is important that you hear from these nurses first hand to understand their role and their valuable contributions to the broader health care system. They clearly appreciate and understand the steps required to ensure we are able to retain and recruit RPNs going forward and what your plan might be should your party form the government in June. I look forward to your reply.


Katha Fortier
Assistant to the National President