Nurse Wage Gains over Time
Despite this long battle, already by 1974, ONA was able to negotiate significant wage gains for RNs – an increase of 20 per cent in 1974 alone – representing the first-time elimination of a portion of the wage discrimination faced by predominantly female workers performing essential work typically taken for granted.
In the early 1990s, another significant wage gain was achieved – more than 25 per cent over three years – as hospital employers moved to preempt the gains expected from various pay equity claims ONA was pursuing through the legal system. These pay equity claims were aimed at undoing ongoing gender-based wage discrimination faced by RNs in Ontario.
Largely due to the improved wages, benefits and workplace rights which come with joining, ONA membership has grown more than six-fold since its birth in 1973. Despite this growth over the long run, ONA saw large drops in the 1990s, when the Ontario
Progressive Conservative government cut public health care and thousands of nursing positions.
Since the early 2000s, ONA membership has been back on the rise, with ONA reaching out to RNs, other health professionals, and since 2010, thousands of Ontario nursing students. Between 2011 and 2013, some 5,000 new RNs and other health professionals chose to join ONA – a growth in union membership unmatched elsewhere in Ontario in this period.