Show of support for striking VON nurses with talks at standstill

Striking VON Sarnia-Lambton employees don superhero capes on the picket lines. 5 May 2021. (Photo from LiUNA! Local 3000's Twitter page)

There was a show of support for striking VON Sarnia-Lambton employees Wednesday morning.

Dozens of protestors gathered near the VON office on London Line in solidarity with 24 employees who walked off the job at 8 a.m. Saturday.

LiUNA 3000 Union Steward and Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) Kat Prevost said contract talks with the employer are at a standstill.

“We have not heard from them since Saturday. They have refused to come back to the negotiating table, and as of their last offer, it required us to take concessions — it would have resulted in us giving up two paid holidays and some of our mileage compensation.”

Prevost said VON’s offer is a 0.5 per cent lump sum payment, representing a $170 payout for the year for some of the full-time nurses.

She said they’re asking for a one per cent yearly wage increase.

“We’re not asking for much, but to be called valued employees and to be working in a pandemic, the worst healthcare crisis that we’ve ever faced, to have so many changes to our jobs — the risks that we’re taking, the workload that’s been put on us — and to be offered a lump sum payment as well as concessions, feels completely disrespectful to us,” she said. “Our job has changed significantly, we are working overtime every day and these nurses are not being compensated for that overtime.”

Prevost said they have not had any trouble with police preventing them from protesting, and that picketers are following the social distancing guidelines that are in place.

The VON’s only statement so far in the dispute said the not-for-profit agency is committed to the bargaining process and looks forward to a timely resolution of the matter.