Meeting between ONA and Ford ‘productive’ but no commitments made on repealing wage cap bill
Published Thursday, February 3, 2022 5:40PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 3, 2022 5:40PM EST
A union representing more than 68,000 nurses in Ontario said Thursday a meeting with provincial officials was productive, but no commitments were made to repeal a bill that limits salary increases for nurses.
Cathryn Hoy, the president of the Ontario Nurses Association, met with Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott to discuss several ongoing issues in the health-care sector.
"I am going to give the government the benefit of the doubt that it was a productive meeting because Premier Ford has invited me back next week for a face-to-face meeting that we are going to discuss how we are going to retain our nurses," Hoy told CP24 following the meeting.
"He himself stated that he understands, he acknowledges that nurses deserve more, and they need to be retained."
While Hoy is disappointed that officials did not commit to repealing Bill 124, she said she is hopeful that when she meets with Ford next week, he will have something to offer.
"I went in with my asks, and he would not commit on Bill 124, repealing it, but he did not say no either," Hoy said.
"I'm not going to book meeting after meeting after meeting. His commitment to me next week was he would come prepared to the table."
Bill 124, which was enacted in 2019, caps salary increases for public sector workers, including nurses, at just one per cent per year, which is below the rate of inflation.
Health-care advocates have been calling for the bill to be revoked as it has been pointed out as one of the reasons why nurses in Ontario are leaving, further worsening the staffing levels across the province's health-care system.
In a joint statement, Ford and Elliott said they were pleased with the meeting with the ONA and acknowledged that more needs to be done to boost nursing staffing.
However, they said efforts to train and retain nurses in Ontario should be supported by the federal government "paying its fair share of health care spending."
"Every single province is feeling the same strain on their health care system, including capacity issues, staffing shortages and surgical backlogs. No province can do it on their own. We need the federal government to be a true funding partner by increasing the Canada Health Transfer," they said.
While Hoy agrees that the federal government should increase health transfers, she said the province already has the money that can be used to help the health-care system.
"We do have provincial monies that are sitting there that are earmarked for healthcare that can be used and they need to be used now," she said,
"It is not acceptable for us to have to wait around for federal transfer payments to be approved to retain our nurses right now. So that will not be the answer for us. The fact there is provincial dollars, it needs to be invested in us now."