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

Public health nurses ratify tentative contract

Windsor-Essex’s public health nurses will soon return to work.

The Ontario Nurses Association, which represents 86 nurses at the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, confirmed Wednesday afternoon that it had ratified a tentative three-year contract. According to a release from the ONA, the deal was approved earlier in the afternoon after the two sides talked for over 12 hours on Tuesday.

The nurses walked off the job two months ago in a dispute over wages and wage parity. The health unit said it could not afford significant wage increases.

Barb Deter, president of ONA Local 8, told BlackburnNewsWindsor.com in an email that the nurses will receive a wage increase next year.

“We wanted to see a 2% in at least one year of a three-year contract. We achieved that with a small signing bonus,” said Deter.

The union thanked the public for its help and support during the labour dispute.

“Our members want to thank the community for their enormous patience and support during the past two months,” said ONA President Vicki McKenna in a statement. “Members of the public came out and joined our nurses on the picket lines, donated funds to help keep our nurses afloat, brought hot drinks and food, supported the nurses’ community fundraising efforts, and most importantly, expressed their support for the work our members do.”

WECHU CEO and Chief Nursing Officer Theresa Marentette said in a statement that the nurses will return to work on Friday and thanked the community for its patience.

“As we have communicated throughout the bargaining process, the health and wellbeing of our community is our priority, and we thank the residents of Windsor-Essex County for their patience throughout the service disruptions,” said Marentette.

The deal has also been approved by the health unit’s board.