Nurses strike over lack of benefits, paid sick leave

Sharon Bouffard, right, and Deborah Kostiw are two of 24 registered practical nurses that walked off the job Saturday. Troy Shantz

Journal Staff
Twenty-four VON nurses walked off the job this morning. 

The RPNs, employed by the local branch of the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON), are unhappy with wages, a lack of benefits and paid sick leave, the union said. 

“We just want the nurses to be treated with some respect,” said Ken Sharpe, business agent with LiUNA 3000. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic where it’s shown that nurses… have a different value in the public’s eyes than they did a little while ago.”

VON offers support groups and a variety of in-home healthcare services, provided by nurses, PSWs and other healthcare workers. The two-dozen RPNs, who have been working without a contract for two years, work out in the community, offering healthcare support in homes and schools. 

Several are classified as casual employees, and they don’t qualify for benefits, paid sick leave or bereavement leave, Sharpe explained. Organizers want them classified as full-time and part-time employees.

Organizers are asking for at least a 1% wage increase as well, and changes to how overtime works for full-time nurses. 

Months-long negotiations broke down late in the week, and a resolution wasn’t found before the April 30 deadline.

“We’re ready to be recognized by our employer for what we do. The offer that’s on the table doesn’t recognize us,” said Brittany Glazier, one of the nurses that walked off the job Saturday morning. 

“They can’t turn around and praise us as healthcare heroes and give us nothing, and devalue us, and not listen to what we’re asking for.”