New contract for Ontario nurses to include benefits and wage increases

About 50,000 registered nurses working in Ontario’s hospital sector will see changes to their health benefits and attendance management policies, as well as wage increases and stronger language in their contracts intended to combat violence in the workplace.

The changes, which were released by an arbitrator on Wednesday, apply to members of the Ontario Nurses’ Association. They take effect on April 1, 2017 and cover the two-year period expiring March 31, 2018.

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The changes include:

  • The annual vision care maximum has been increased from $400 to $450.
  • The annual hearing aid maximum has been increased from $500 to $600.
  • The dental category of crowns, bridgework and repairs has been amended to include implants.
  • Amendments to what types of absences will be covered by the attendance management program.
  • The definition of workplace violence has been broadened.
  • Wages will increase by 1.4 per cent, effective April 1, 2016, and by another 1.4 per cent, effective April 1, 2017.
  • A new minimum start rate for nurse practitioners as the first step towards standardizing rates for this nursing classification.
  • The elimination of the education allowance for new hires.

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According to a press release from the Ontario Nurses’ Association, hospital employers had only offered changes to the minimum wage, forcing the organization to arbitration.

“ONA is deeply discouraged that our highly educated, highly skilled RNs have been given a general wage increase of 1.4 per cent in each year of the contract, retroactive to April 1, 2016,” said ONA president Linda Haslam-Stroud.

“Other professionals who work in male-dominated areas – such as police, firefighters and physicians – continue to receive wage increases that widen the gender equity gap. This is completely unacceptable. ONA will continue to be committed to ongoing pay equity negotiations.”

In the award ruling, the hospitals said the package awarded by the arbitrator is “too rich” and that the “monies used to pay the wages and benefits for the nurses covered by this award come, almost entirely, from the public purse.

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