Despite the daily struggles, Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) face fighting the pandemic, RPNs across Ontario have come together to take action against Ontario’s Bill 124 that caps total compensation at 1% and to highlight the wage disparity that has resulted from a decade of below inflation wage increases.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) have stepped up in a big way,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to National President Jerry Dias. “Hailed as “COVID heroes” with other health care workers, these nurses have worked through code red outbreaks, dealt with the trauma associated with death and suffering, worked long hours often without days off, and navigated through the challenges of protecting their own health and safety in a fast-changing work environment. All the while Doug Ford has refused to repeal Bill 124.”
Last fall the union formed a committee consisting of RPNs across Ontario to discuss and plan actions to repeal Bill 124 and demand a standardized wage for RPN’s across the province. Committee members shared their experiences on the frontlines where they are often work short staffed, experience burn out and generally do not feel respected by the Ontario government. Most health care workers including nurses across the province are still subject to emergency orders that override their collective agreement rights, including scheduling and time off, as well as subject them to reassignment or redeployment. Only PSW’s have been granted a wage enhancement to address issues of retention and even that has not been made permanent.
Several nurses chose to share their stories about what their role is in the workplace, how they contribute to good outcomes for patients and how the pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health and their quality of life. The video highlights the role RPN’s play in our health care system.
In addition to the video, a petition was developed, and local unions have sent letters requesting meetings with their MPPs. Unifor’s National President wrote a letter to the Premier demanding a meeting to discuss the issues affecting RPNs.
The petition and the letter to the Premier both highlight the need for the government to address implement a fair and standardized wage for RPN’s, repeal Bill 124 and expand the temporary wage enhancement to any health care workers subjected to the overrides of their collective agreement rights.
“RPNs have had to fight for proper health and safety protections in the workplace and have had their collective agreement rights trampled on, and all the while they have continued to provide excellent quality care,” said Andy Savela, Unifor Health Care Director. “The media has widely reported that the pandemic has only served to highlight an existing nursing shortage and the risk of an exodus of nurses due to burnout. Without real measures to improve working conditions and compensation, the health care system is at risk. Retention must be a priority.”
Unifor has scheduled a meeting in early February with Christine Elliott, Ontario’s Minister of Health.
“We plan to deliver a simple but strong message to the Minister of Health: It's time to respect, protect, and pay Ontario's RPNs,” said Fortier.