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Ontario Nurses’ Association says bargaining with hospitals has broken down

Contract talks between nurses and the Ontario Hospital Association have broken down and will now head to arbitration, the nurses’ union said Friday.

The two sides began bargaining in late January and mediation had started on Wednesday but no deal was reached.

“This round of negotiations has been incredibly difficult and frustrating,” said Bernie Robinson, interim president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association.

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Bargaining for Ontario hospital nurses enters mediation

“ONA’s elected bargaining team went into talks with a strong and clear set of priorities that come from our front lines, and they have been met with an extremely disappointing and disrespectful response from the employers.”

Arbitration is set for early May, the association said.

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The nurses, and other broader public sector workers, have been subject for three years to a wage restraint law known as Bill 124, which capped increases at one per cent a year.

An Ontario court found Bill 124 unconstitutional late last year, but the government has appealed the decision. The Court of Appeal is set to hear the case in June.

The Ontario Hospital Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Robinson said the union would have preferred to reach a deal through negotiations rather than arbitration.

“What counts is a contract that provides better staffing levels, wages and benefits, so that we can provide better patient care,” Robinson said.

The deal will affect about 60,000 registered nurses and other health-care workers.

“The need to recruit and retain nurses is more urgent than it’s ever been,” Robinson said. “Our nurses and health-care professionals are highly educated and valued by employers in other jurisdictions.”

Emergency rooms across the province struggled last summer, with many closing for hours or even days at a time.

Hospitals both big and small were affected but smaller, rural hospitals were hit particularly hard. A severe nursing shortage was the cause of many of those closures.

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