Striking nurses make quiet demonstration at County Council

Striking Windsor-Essex County public health nurses displayed shirts that read “Fairness for Nurses, New Mandate Now” as they attended the Wednesday, April 17 regular meeting of County Council.

by Kyle Reid

Windsor and Essex County’s Public Health Nurses took to Essex County Council on Wednesday, April 17 to remind County politicians of their important role in the community as the ongoing nurses’ strike heads into its sixth week.

Some 40 nurses sat in on Wednesday’s regular meeting of County Council, wearing shirts that read “Fairness for Nurses, New Mandate Now.” The quiet demonstration was a way of reminding County officials of the important services the nurses provide.

Donna Boyd, Vice-President of the Ontario Nurses Association, said vital public health programs are missing from Windsor-Essex County as the nurses and their employer struggle to reach an agreement.

“Kids aren’t receiving shots and new moms and babies aren’t receiving services,” Boyd claimed, adding that there are active cases of tuberculosis in the community — a disease which is tested and monitored by the health unit nurses.

And while nurse managers are providing some services, the nurses say that there is simply too much work for the unit to continue the level of services provided for by 86 nurses.

“Eight nurse managers can’t do the job,” Boyd said.

Money continues to be the main sticking point for the striking nurses as they continue to battle for a wage increase based on the cost of living index. However, Essex County Warden and Health Board Chairperson Gary McNamara said there simply isn’t enough money to go around.

“There is no extra cash, everybody thinks there’s a hidden package of money somewhere, [but] there isn’t, and that’s the reality,” McNamara said.

The nurses have rejected the last three offers from their employer, and they aren’t buying the position that there is no money to pay what they feel is a fair wage.

Boyd noted that the nurses recognize the challenges of finding funding in light of a recent belt-tightening provincial budget; however, they will continue to fight for a fair deal. With multiple levels of funding generously provided from various other nursing unions from across the country the group is in it for the long haul.

“We’re still very strong in our fight for fairness,” Boyd said.