August 13, 2021

Canada’s nurses are done asking – we demand action now

Nurses’ unions announce national day of action in September to highlight nursing crisis

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions and provincial nurses’ unions across the country are organizing a national day of action in September to demand urgent government measures addressing Canada’s nursing crisis. The day of action will feature protests and pickets at worksites across the country. The precise date will be announced in the coming days.

“The simmering frustration nurses have been feeling for years is reaching a boiling point,” said Linda Silas, president of the CFNU. “Nurses are done asking for basic respect, safety and fairness – now we are demanding government action, and we are united to fight for the fairness we deserve.”

Seventeen months into a deadly pandemic, and more than a decade into a chronic nursing shortage, nurses and health care staff are overworked, underpaid, burnt out, and suffering moral distress because there are not enough staff to provide the care patients deserve.

On the heels of recent days of action in Alberta and Ontario protesting chronic understaffing, wage suppression and rollbacks, we are now seeing New Brunswick nurses reject a tentative agreement from their government; Manitoba nurses hitting a wall put up by their government; and bed closures all over Newfoundland and Labrador due to understaffing. In every province, there is growing anger and frustration among the nursing workforce.

“The disrespect nurses are facing after months of sacrifice is absolutely a slap in the face,” said Silas. “We should all be outraged, and I hope the public will show their support for nurses on the day of action.”

After years of government inaction, nurses are now enduring blatant disrespect from their provincial governments in the form of proposed wage suppression and rollbacks, massive increases in overtime, forced overtime, no time off, denial of fair contracts and dangerous work. Nurses are saying enough is enough; the lives of patients and workers are being put at risk.

Without urgent measures by provincial and federal governments to address the national nursing shortage and untenable working conditions, things will only get worse as more and more health workers consider leaving their jobs.

“As nurses, we cannot do our jobs without decent staffing and resources, and we are no longer accepting work under dangerous and unfathomable conditions,” said Silas. “Make no mistake: the future of our health care system is on the line.”