York Region’s 234 public health nurses will see wage hikes of 1.6 per cent and 1.5 per cent and an increase in benefit coverage for mental health services in a two-year contract retroactive to last spring.

The collective agreement between the region and the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) also includes an introduction of a mandatory generic drug platform, according to a news release issued by York Region.

Negotiations began in September 2017. A tentative agreement, reached on Feb. 1 following mediation, was ratified the following day by ONA membership. ONA president Vicki McKenna described the negotiations as “difficult” but was “pleased” nurses would be able to “continue working to keep their community healthy and safe.”

York Regional Council approved the collective on Feb. 15. The contract is retroactive to April 1, 2017 and effective to March 31, 2019.

“Our objective is always to reach a mutually agreeable contract between our unionized employees and the corporation that is respectful of our taxpayers,” said York Region chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson, in a statement.

Public health nurses run vaccination clinics and breastfeeding clinics, provide pregnancy counselling and prenatal support and provide support for high-risk families, among other services.