Capital Health workers are eager to get things back to normal after a tentative deal was hammered out by their union over five days of intense bargaining, Tracy Fisk, president of Local 42, said Thursday

A lot of unionized workers, which include lab workers and licensed practical nurses, were turning out to vote Thursday, she said. Voting continues until noon Friday for the 3,600 health-care workers in the Halifax area. The results are expected Friday afternoon.

"We all want to get things back to normal," Fisk said.

If the union membership accepts the tentative agreement, then the two sides will look for an arbitrator to settle the wage issue. Their union, the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, recommends that they endorse the deal.

Negotiators didn't reach a settlement on pay demands, so the issue of wage hikes will go to binding arbitration.

The arbitrator will be asked to come up with a three-year wage increase of between 6.5 per cent and just over nine per cent. That decision must be reached by June 15.

 

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Physiotherapist Wayne Miller is relieved a strike was averted. (CBC)

Wayne Miller, a physiotherapist with Capital Health for three years, is relieved a deal was struck. 

"I'm glad that we didn't have to strike," he said.

Miller said he wants workers to get paid a decent wage based on their education and work.   "When you look at what they're getting, I think they warrant and deserve more," he said. "There are a lot of people that think more is deserved."

Miller said a strike likely would not have been an inconvenience to patients.

"When you look at the staffing levels that were going to be put in place during the strike if it happened, in a lot of areas there were more staff that were available than on a regular day," he said. "So no one was really concerned about the level of patient care."  

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Nurse Donna Asselin hopes the deal is a fair one. (CBC)

Donna Asselin, a nurse who works in orthopedics, said she's happy with the deal.  

"I hope we can just get on with it and do our jobs," she said.  "I hope that it comes out well and meet somewhere in the middle."

Premier Darrell Dexter wouldn't talk about what the deal might cost taxpayers.

"I'm not going to discuss the details of this because it is a tentative agreement," he said.

Dexter said he doesn't want to assume this is a done deal nor does he want to speculate about the possible cost.

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said taxpayers deserve to know.

"The premier should be telling the taxpayers of Nova Scotia what they potentially could be on the hook for and making sure we have a full debate about it," he said.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said the government should have offered arbitration weeks ago, sparing a lot of people a lot of pain.

"If this is where we were going to go, all of the hardship around surgery cancellations and clinical cancellations could have been avoided," he said.

Dexter dismissed that suggestion.

"This arbitration process is the result of four or five days of grueling negotiations," he said.

Diagnostic imaging, lab work resumes

Diagnostic imaging and lab work resumed today at Capital Health, but it will be several days before all surgeries are back on.

A strike was averted Wednesday after 3,600 health-care workers in the Halifax area got a tentative contract deal.

To prepare for a strike, Capital Health postponed 530 diagnostic imaging appointments, 430 surgeries and 1,947 outpatient appointments.

CEO Chris Power said cancelled appointments will be rebooked as quickly as possible. However, it could be Monday before operating rooms are running as usual.

Are you a Capital Health worker or patient? Tell us your story. Email cbcns@cbc.ca.

"We still can't bring everything up on our in-patient level to our normal operating levels until the vote is ratified," she said Wednesday night.

Tentative Agreement between NSGEU and Capital Health