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Windsor-Essex County Health Unit nurses hold picket in Essex



by Kyle Reid

A small group of Windsor and Essex County’s nurse practitioners, registered practical nurses, and public health nurses staged an information picket in the lobby of the Essex County Civic Centre just before the February 20 regular meeting of County Council.

  The group held the picket as a way of informing members of County Council of the vital role they play in public health, and that contract negotiations have broken down between their union and employer.

  The County Health nurses are facing a potential strike as they have been working without a contract since March 31, 2018. The group will be in a strike position as of March 8, and they are hoping that they can avoid striking through a successful second conciliation hearing, scheduled for February 28.

  “We don’t want to walk out on strike, we would settle for a fair agreement,” Barb Deter said, who is a public health nurse. “But [we want] to be recognized [for] the valuable programs and services that we offer to the residents of Windsor-Essex County.”

  Public health nurses who were picketing noted that they are responsible for school vaccination programs, and monitor for and control infectious disease outbreaks. They also work to operate maternal health and healthy families programs, healthy schools programs, smoking cessation, substance abuse, and mental health programs.

  The public health nurses spoke to members of County Council before Wednesday’s meeting. Deter claimed Council members were surprised to learn that their employer had walked away from the bargaining table.

  “They can’t believe what’s been going on,” Deter said. “They were very surprised when we told them that everything has broken down.”

  While County Council is unable to step in to mediate the situation, the nurses are hoping that by holding the information pickets, they can inform the public of the potential strike and the role that public health nurses play in the community.

  “Right now, nobody knows that we’re having problems,” Deter said. “This is the beginning of our information pickets. We don’t want to strike, but if things don’t change and we don’t have the opportunity to sit and talk and try to negotiate, we won’t have a choice then.”

  However, the group is holding out hope that they can avoid a worst-case scenario, and that conciliation will lead to a productive collective bargaining session.

  “We’re staying optimistic that we will be able to have that conversation on the 28th,” Deter said.

 

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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