Ontario Nurses’ Union
secures ’retention bonus’
for front-line nurses

TORONTO – With less than four months until the Provincial election, the Ford Government agrees to pay $5,000 to Ontario’s front-line nurses in publicly funded settings. The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) confirmed this in a statement (February 11), that said its president, Cathryn Hoy had met with Premier Ford and “negotiated a good-faith retention bonus for all front-line nurses in publicly-funded facilities”.

The details of the negotiations, such as when nurses can expect to receive the payment and who exactly qualifies for the bonus, were not released. However, Hoy noted that the bonus “is for a lump-sum, $5,000 payment and the Premier indicated that this will go to the Treasury Board as early as next week for approval and further details on implementation”.

This announcement comes amid the Union’s increased pressure on the Ford Government to repeal Bill 124, legislation that limits increase in public sector compensation to one percent per year over a three-year period. The ONA calls it the “wage suppression legislation” adding it is “extremely detrimental to recruitment and retention across the province”.

The pandemic has only exacerbated the pressures felt by nurses and front-line workers who have been overworked and undervalued. The ONA claims nurses are leaving the profession because of burnout and disrespect.

In 2020, nurses received a 16-week pandemic pay increase, but nurses’ unions have continued to advocate for the repeal of Bill 124.

Some could say this “bonus” is a step in the right direction for the Ontario government to try and fix the province’s nursing shortage. Others may feel this is a political move by the government to gain more support heading into an election. The Corriere asked the Ministry of Health if the government plans to make any changes to Bill 124, they did not respond to our request for comment as at going to print.

While the Premier has not given an indication whether he plans to repeal Bill 124, Hoy said “it is not off the table”, adding, they have “negotiated concrete commitments to implement several measures to fix Ontario’s serious nursing shortage”. Some of those measures include the resurrection of the Late-Career

Nursing Initiative, a program to bring back senior or retired nurses to help ease shortages and the New Graduate Program, which aim to add more nurses to the workforce.

The union also indicated that the province will work with the Ontario Hospital Association “to ensure exhausted nurses can take a vacation”.

Another issue raised during the negotiations was the need for more full-time nursing positions, specifically to increase the target to 70% full-time status.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health information, only 58% of the nursing workforce was employed full-time in 2019.

One measure under consideration is fast-tracking programs that help increase the number of registered nurses. Another involves a quicker process for internationally educated nurses to get the appropriate licences to work in Ontario and build-up the province’s nursing capacity.

It is unclear whether the one time “retention bonus” is enough incentive for nurses to stay in the profession.

P. Pajdo is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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