For me, Labour Day is always a reminder of how critically important health care workers are and the incredible respect nurses deserve.
A respected job in nursing – one that makes you proud, pays your bills and helps you build your future – shouldn’t be too much to ask for.
Indeed, when I first became a nurse, it wasn’t too much to ask for. Yes, nursing is hard work; the hours can be long, and you need a certain grit and determination to face such demanding and emotionally intense work. But when I started nursing, senior nurses were there to mentor me, I had support at work, and it was a stable profession – one that I was proud of and encouraged others to join.
For too many nurses, this is no longer the case. Amongst an affordability crisis, stagnant wages, untenable working conditions and increasingly long hours have become the norm not only for nurses but for many workers across sectors.
We are at a tipping point, and we have the power to shape our future. The future of health care can be bright. Focusing on the frontline workers delivering care is how we get there.
From primary care to how we care for our seniors, supporting nurses is the key to creating a healthier future for everyone in Canada. This must be the priority of every government and employer – not creating more obstacles with privatization schemes.
The solutions are clear: employers who are focused on retaining their workers will become employers of choice and deliver the best care in our communities in the most efficient way.
Nurse union leaders are facing this crisis head-on and taking it as an opportunity to drive forward solutions, from the ground up – and we’re winning.
Nurses have been rallying behind our collective challenges and solutions across the country. Through collective bargaining, the British Columbia Nurses’ Union won mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios – a transformative staffing model that will increase the quality of care for patients and create better working conditions for health care workers. Within months, the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union followed suit with a similar staffing model in their collective agreement.
The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) successfully challenged the Ford government’s Bill 124, which suppressed wage increases and was found to be unconstitutional by Ontario’s Superior Court in 2022. Building on this success, ONA won a significant wage increase for hospital nurses and health care workers – giving nurses an 11% wage increase over two years when the Ford government was only willing to offer 2%. The arbitrator’s decision reflected what nurses and other workers know well: stagnant wages play a negative role in the ability to retain and recruit more nurses.
These are wins for all nurses and all patients – victories that we can build on and a healthier future for all.
The future of health care in Canada rests within a stable and committed workforce. Nurses have told us time and time again what they need: safe staffing, guaranteed time off, fair wages. What this really amounts to is simple: respect.
In unwavering solidarity,
Linda Silas, CFNU President