Avoiding strike action for Public Health nurses in the region, the Ontario Nurses’ Association and the Region of Waterloo have voted to ratify a tentative agreement reached last week.

The 131 nurses voted in favour of the deal, which runs through June 30, 2019. The contract includes adjustments to health benefits and premiums and a moderate increase in wages of 1.25 per cent retroactive to July 2016, a 1.25 per cent increase in July 2017, and a two per cent increase in Jan. 2018.

Negotiations started last summer, in June, and were ongoing until just last week when a tentative agreement was reached.

Dr. Liana Nolan, medical officer of health and commissioner of public health, said regional officials are just happy a deal has been reached, avoiding a public health nurse strike.

“We are very pleased that a deal has been reached between the region and ONA, so it is business as usual,” she said. “I can say that we are all very happy that a voluntary agreement has been reached. From our point of view, we have always said that we value the work of the public health nurses and a voluntary agreement was always the hope and the intent. I think it has worked out well.”

Talks didn’t always go smoothly, however.

In an ONA press release from a month ago, Vicki McKenna, first vice-president of the association, expressed her displeasure with the negotiations.

“Bargaining has been very different this round versus our past experiences with this employer. After seven days at the bargaining table, these highly skilled professionals are insulted, disrespected, disillusioned, and devalued by this employer,” she said. “Our dedicated nurses work to ensure that the 575,000 residents of the Region of Waterloo remain healthy and well, yet their employer has been absolutely disrespectful. The employer flatly refused to listen to ONA members’ counter-proposal, ending talks.

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