I have spent many days in the trenches with Ontarians who are seeking to secure the best possible outcomes for their health care. While Ontario nurses face enormous challenges in providing the care that the needs of Canadians demand, these challenges should not prevent nurses from receiving the pay and support they deserve. It’s time to end the sex wage gap in Ontario
During the ’80s and ’90s, nurses across Canada received significant wage increases that were reflected in their wages in Ontario. This was in part because Ontario managed to acquire a majority share in the Canadian Nurses Association. As the organization’s status increased, salaries for nurses were equitably adjusted, resulting in equal pay for equal work.
Between 1995 and 2005, nurses in Ontario were able to earn more than those in non-unionized territories, so that the public nursing workforce could come into line with the levels of government in other provinces. Even so, Ontario nurses continue to be less well paid than their counterparts in other provinces, though the gains made during this period were seen as modest.
There is a widely held belief that women are the best candidates for nurses because they have the unique skill sets needed to provide skilled nursing care in hospitals and other health care facilities. However, it’s important to understand that nurses can be highly skilled whether they are female or male, as demonstrated by our current nursing shortages.
If women were the only ones lacking a strong nursing background and training, then employers might well discriminate against them. Since many women change jobs in their lives, many nurse employers are also dissatisfied with their male nurses and may get rid of them.
Today, young nurses are entering the workforce with an average of more than 20 years of industry experience. It’s no wonder that many employers are struggling to replace qualified candidates with health care professionals in the short term, which will likely continue for years.
Some individuals may also maintain their current health professions in order to ensure the next generation of health care professionals have the necessary skills.
There’s a strong need for nurses right now in Ontario and across Canada. However, Ontario nurses are not being treated fairly. The provincially regulated pay scale is complex and mandates that such a range of experience and qualifications be required in order to maintain a salary that is comparable to other provinces.
Nurses, who have 18 years of experience and have completed a training program, have the skills to deliver the very best care in hospitals and other health care facilities. The investment and investment for four years of training should come at parity with their peers in other provinces, no matter their gender or level of experience.
Ontario is the only province that has not created parity between nurses and their counterparts. We need all the competent health care professionals we can find. However, in order to achieve this, Ontario needs to end the sex wage gap.
There is no reason why nurses can’t receive an increase in pay and support, and end the pay disparity that exists. This should be a no-brainer.
With the retirement of Ontario’s three-member federal Liberal government, it’s time for the Progressive Conservative government to take a leadership role and come to the aid of nurses in our province.
Victoria Van Auken is executive director of
Nurse Occupational Relations Institute Canada