Double-digit raises a ‘win for nurses’, ‘win for Ontario’: RNAO

Ontario’s nurses are set to see their biggest pay bump in decades.

It comes after an arbitrated settlement resulted in hospital nurses receiving a raise of around 11 per cent, on average, over two years.

“It’s a win for nurses and it’s a win for Ontarians,” said Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO).

In his decision, the arbitrator points to, among other things, an ongoing staffing crisis and high inflation as making up just part of his reasoning for the double-digit increase.

“The award takes inflation into account and is an acknowledgement of the incontrovertible evidence that for more than a decade inflation has greatly outpaced [registered nurses’] rates,” wrote William Kaplan.

Grinspun went on to also argue that was then worsened to the point the health care system has been “crumbling in front of our eyes” following three years of provincial wage constraints later deemed unconstitutional.

“We all are seeing the results of the [undervaluing] of nursing–so this remedies that,” Grinspun said.

“Is it enough? It’s never enough. Is it an important beginning? It’s a hugely important beginning and we’re going to celebrate and start to move forward.”

Grinspun went on to highlight a number of initiatives taken by the province so far to boost the recruitment of new nurses but said this is the first real action aimed at keeping those nurses on the job–although it does not come from the province.

“What we needed desperately were measures of retention,” she said. “Recruitment in itself is good, but not good enough.”

She went on to say, by retaining nurses already on the job, this decision should also help lead to safer workloads, fewer bed closures, better access, and more.

“This decision is a first step to righting past wrongs and bringing hospitals nurses’ compensation up to where it should be,” said Erin Ariss, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), the nurses’ union, in a statement.

“In his decision, Arbitrator Kaplan explicitly recognizes that improving wages is among the best ways to recruit and retain desperately needed nurses and begin to fix the nursing shortage,” Ariss added.

“It was almost beyond debate, in ONA’s submission, that the Participating Hospitals were unable to attract and retain sufficient numbers of [registered nurses],” Kaplan wrote in that decision. “The evidence in support of this proposition was everywhere.”

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