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ONA members rally in Orillia ahead of new bargaining talks

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On Friday, Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) members hit the picket line in Orillia, claiming for-profit nursing home companies are compromising resident care while pocketing billions in revenue.

"We are fighting for care, not profit, advocating for the vulnerable residents of Ontario's corporate-owned long-term care homes," says ONA provincial president Erin Ariss. "Our residents deserve to receive quality care, yet what we see is wealthy corporations making record profits on the backs of our residents and those who care for them. It's not right, and it's not safe."

ONA represents over 68,000 registered nurses and 18,000 nursing student affiliates.

"Residents aren't receiving the best care. These homes are taking the money that residents give them, and they're providing dividends to shareholders rather than increasing staffing levels and compensating staff at a fair rate, and we'd like to see that change," added Ariss.

The picketers, including nurses, personal support workers, and guest attendants, rallied outside Revera Oak Terrace on Friday afternoon. This was just one of 37 protests across the province.

The ONA says it is holding these rallies before new bargaining talks set for next week.

"Our residents are losing quality time with nursing staff. We don't have time to do a proper assessment, we don't have time to spend with these residents, we don't have time to listen to their concerns, and we're just rushing from pillar to post and back again trying to get everything done in a day," says Marie Salovaara, a registered nurse.

The ONA seeks a contract for its 3,000 members that includes better staffing ratios to improve resident care.

"The pandemic should have been a wake-up call, but instead, it's business as usual for the likes of Extensicare and other for-profit nursing home corporations," says Arris. "We won't give up this fight for our residents, who will regain dignity and the best possible care, and our communities, which need a strong long-term care system."

The latest round of bargaining is expected to start next week with in-person discussions.

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