More than 80 public health nurses with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit are on strike.

The members of the Ontario Nurses Association walked off the job at midnight , after rejecting the health agency’s final contract offer on Thursday night.

The 86 nurses voted in favour of strike action after negotiations failed to produce a new contract. The nurses have been working without a contract since March 31, 2018.

The main issue surrounds a wage increase, with the ONA saying the Health Unit never budged from their position.

“Municipal workers in this county in male-dominated professions, such as police and firefighters, are receiving far better contracts with regard to wages than our female-dominated professionals,” said ONA president Vicki McKenna. “If nursing were a male-dominated profession, I suspect that our nurses would not have been forced out onto the picket lines. We remain ready to get back to the table at any time so our members can provide the services our community members deserve and need.”

But Theresa Marentette, the CEO and the Chief Nursing Officer at the health unit, insists the offer was a good one.

“The offer that was on the table is a fair and reasonable offer, it included wage increases, increases to benefits and no concessions for our staff.”

The health unit says the Windsor, Leamington, and Essex offices will remain open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

But there will be service delays during the strike and a number of programs are cancelled.

The list of cancelled programs include the healthy schools program, the school immunization clinics for Grade 7 students, the school suspension program for incomplete immunizations, the healthy families home visiting program for new moms, breastfeeding clinics, the sexual health and family planning clinics and the nurse practitioner clinics for pre-natal and sexual health.

Officials say about 1,200 students born in 2001 and 2002 received suspension notices for incomplete immunization records in early February, but no students will be suspended due to the strike.

The health unit is still encouraging students and their parents to ensure their immunization records are up-to-date.

No new talks are scheduled.

The 86 nurses are represented by the ONA which represents more than 65,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals across Ontario.