Labour negotiations have come to a standstill between the Ontario Nurses Association and 174 for-profit nursing homes across the province.
In Sudbury, the negotiations affect around 20 members – registered nurses, registered practical nurses and personal support workers – at Extendicare Falconbridge and Extendicare York.
The union's collective agreement with the employer consortium – which includes Extendicare – expired on June 30.
So far, meetings with a mediator have proven fruitless, said Ontario Nurses Association president Linda Haslam-Stroud.
“I think there was an opportunity to get a collective agreement that actually values our nurses' worth,” she said.
The union has asked for its members to receive wage and benefits parity with equivalent employees at municipal long-term care facilities – such as Sudbury's Pioneer Manor.
The wage disparity between health care workers and for-profit and municipal long-term care facilities can be as high as $5 an hour, Haslam-Stroud said.
“These nurses do the exact same job as the nurses in the home for the aged,” she said.
The Ontario Nurses Association has also taken issue with the proposed removal of staffing language that protects nurse-patient ratios and nursing hours of care for residents.
Without that language in place, Haslam-Stroud said, staffing levels would not be sufficient to provide patients with the same level of care they currently receive.
“Our residents who are in long-term care facilities require very complex care, and they deserve to have that care.”
Keith Clement, a senior administrator with Extendicare in Sudbury, said the company is committed to continue negotiations with the union.
If they cannot come to a voluntary negotiated settlement, the issues on which they do not agree could go to arbitration in October.
If that happens, the Ontario Nurses Association members could have to wait up to five months for a new contract.