Too Little Too Late? Ontario Nurses Finally Get a Pay Raise
Ontario’s population must be scratching their collective heads over how the Doug Ford Government manages health care in Ontario. In 2019, at the pandemic’s beginning, Doug Ford’s government passed the controversial Bill 124 that limited pay increases to nurses to 1%. Nurses were on the front lines throughout the pandemic. Overworked, overstressed, and underpaid, nurses were tested to the max and beyond. Many suffered burnout, went on sick or stress leave, or even quit the profession.
At the time, the Ontario Premier seemed to be talking from both sides of his mouth, saying how important the healthcare system was and how essential nurses and hospital staff are, especially during COVID. Yet out, on the other side, his government passed Bill 124, limiting nurses’ pay raises to 1 per cent annually. They had already worked without a pay raise or contract for two years. Meanwhile, nurses’ pay was falling behind the cost of living, which was spiking to 5% by 2022.
Nurses were burning out, overworked, while keeping hospitals operating through COVID and falling behind the basic cost of living. One 29-year veteran nurse told CBC then, “One per cent is a slap in the face,” she said. “Nurses are working twice as hard, longer hours and under unbearable conditions.”
Nurses were walking out the door and not coming back.
The same was happening with Doctors. The Ontario College of Family Physicians said in February this year that “more than 2.2 million Ontarians were without a family doctor.
Meanwhile, that same government is opening the doors to new Canadians and immigration. Approximately 4 in 10 new Canadians come to Ontario. Canadian immigration is set for over 500,000 this year and slightly more next year. These new Canadians will add to the stress on our overworked medical system.
The province is now desperately trying to catch up and hire new professionals in health care. A report this March says that Ontario is projected to be short 33,000 nurses and personal support workers by 2028 despite Premier Doug Ford’s investment in the sector,
It gets worse, “The Financial Accountability Office (FAO), which is a body that provides independent analysis on the state of Ontario’s finances, also says the government will be short $21 billion to cover its commitments over six years to expand hospitals, long-term care and home care.
Bill 124, which capped public sector wages at one per cent per year for a three-year term, was declared unconstitutional in November 2022 after unions argued it substantially interfered with their constitutional right to collective bargaining.
Finally, last week on July 20, arbitration decisions stemming from the overturn of Bill 124 – wage suppression legislation passed by the Ford government – Ontario hospital RNs and healthcare professionals will receive wage increases that average 16 per cent from March 31, 2023, to April 1, 2024.
The overriding question with so many bandages being applied to our health care system is all this too little too late?