NS: Health care industry braces for potential strike

Jennifer Taplin
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Metro Halifax

Members of Nova Scotia General Employees Union Local 42 voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike on Monday.

Nova Scotia General Employees Union president Joan Jessome counts ballots with another union member at their office in Burnside on Monday.

[HALIFAX, NS] — Another massive strike could be on the horizon and it’s not buses this time, but health-care services.

The 3,569 members of the Nova Scotia General Employees Union (NSGEU) Local 42 voted 90.7 per cent in favour of a strike on Monday.

There are three days still booked for conciliation, from April 3 to 5, but NSGEU president Joan Jessome says the two sides are far apart.

“We’re going to go there to get a deal but we also know the position of the union and its members going into it,” she said.

Capital Health is offering one per cent wage increases in the next three years, and the union wants 5.1 per cent in the first year, then cost-of-living increases for the next two.

“We’re far apart but if there’s a deal to be had that we can recommend, then we’ll certainly try to get it,” Jessome said.

Kathy MacNeil, vice-president of people for Capital Health, agrees they’re far apart but she has hope for the bargaining process.

“We’ve got a ways to go on the wage side,” she said. “We’ve been here before and we’ve been able to work through. Negotiation is about compromise and each of us making those compromises so we can get to a deal.”

The two sides have signed an emergency-services agreement but a strike would have a significant impact on the delivery of service, Jessome says.

“It will not be business as usual,” she said. “There will be a scaled-down version of pretty much every service. Cancer treatment in the Veterans building will be fully staffed…. ORs and the ER will be open, but the ORs will be scaled back.”

The union’s members work at Capital Health sites in HRM and Hants County and include occupational therapists, medical-lab technicians, emergency-room paramedics and social workers.

Organizations: Nova Scotia General Employees Union, Capital Health

Geographic location: HRM, Hants County

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  • Jerry White
    March 20, 2012 - 10:10

    Public sector wages in health care support services far exceed those of private sector providers. This gap puts tremendous upward pressure on health care delivery costs. If public sector unions want to maintain this wage discrepancy, they have to take responsibility for working with the health authorities to significantly increase the productivity of these workers. Otherwise, we're never going to solve our health care cost problem.