No hints of an end to VON strike

VON Sarnia-Lambton employees on strike outside the Sarnia VON office on London Line. 1 May 2021. (Submitted photo)

The union representing striking VON Sarnia-Lambton employees said although there’s hope that the two sides can strike a fair deal, meaningful talks have yet to be scheduled with the employer.

Nurses walked off the job on May 1, after contract talks were unsuccessful.

LiUNA Local 3000 Business Representative Ken Sharpe said the employer recently made another offer, however, it was not what the nurses were hoping for.

“The offer was not even close,” he said. “It didn’t address the needs of the nurses that had to go out on the street in the first place so it hasn’t been accepted.”

Sharpe said there is hope that the employer will return to the bargaining table so that both sides can have a meaningful discussion.

“But so far I have not heard from the employer,” he said. “So while I hold out hope and I am always optimistic, there’s nothing that’s giving me any indication that the employer wants this strike to end.”

Sharpe said the sticking points remain the same with the request for more sick days, bereavement leave, and a pay raise.

“Ultimately, we still have nurses that are being asked to take lump-sum payments of less than $5 a week in the first year of the collective agreement and we still have people that will be going into the schools and will not be entitled to any sick time, bereavement leave, et cetera.”

There was strong community support for striking workers during the first week of May and Sharpe said that support has not wavered.

“The support from the community has just been phenomenal and the morale still seems to be surprisingly good,” he said.

Sharpe said although he can’t speak for the nurses, he believes the one thing that’s weighing on them is the longing to see clients again.

“From day one of this strike… even before we voted to go on strike, every single nurse [was] conflicted,” he said. “It’s in their nature to care for people and what they actually want to be doing is seeing their clients.”

The 24 registered practical nurses on strike have been without a contract since March 2019.