Striking public health nurses and their supporters at a rally in Windsor, March 15, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

Striking public health nurses return to bargaining table next week

After eight weeks on the picket lines, talks between the Windsor Essex County Health Unit and its striking public health nurses will pick up again next week.

The Ontario Nurses Association confirmed talks will resume with a mediator.

The impasse is over wages. The nurses are fighting for an increase similar to what was awarded to workers in more male-dominated professions like Windsor firefighters and police officers.

The two sides have met with a mediator before. Officials with the union and the health unit have met at least twice in an effort to end the protracted labour dispute.

Some programs have been impacted by the strike, but the health unit issued a statement Thursday reassuring the public all its immunization clinics, including those for HPV, meningitis, and hepatitis B have not been cancelled permanently. It said once the strike is over, those clinics will go ahead.

“We are hopeful that the health unit and its public health nurses will come to a resolution soon,” wrote CEO Theresa Marentette. “To date, the health unit has not received any requests to meet from ONA’s bargaining unit since its membership rejected our last offer, which included an increase to both wages and benefits despite the anticipated budgetary impacts resulting from the Ontario budget. The health unit has accepted a request from the mediator appointed by the province to attend a meeting next week with ONA.”

The 86 nurses had been working without a contract for a year before walking off the job on March 8.