The provincial government is taking a hard line against home care workers in Halifax who are set to strike, and will quickly introduce legislation to force essential workers to stay on the job.
More than 420 home support workers with Northwood Homecare Ltd. have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike, according to the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, and could walk off the job as soon as Friday.
The legislation will be introduced the same day. It will force the union to reach a deal with the employer on what services need to be maintained. Only non-essential workers could walk the picket line.
"This essential service legislation does not take away the right to strike," Premier Stephen McNeil said.
"Once we ensure that, that essential service piece is in place they can exercise their right to strike."
But the proposed law has the NSGEU accusing the government of interfering with collective bargaining. It could take days for the legislation to become law and the union intends to voice its objections during public hearings.
And the legislation won’t just apply to Northwood employees, but also to staff working at 11 other home care companies also in labour negotiations.
"We want to make sure that we don't have to reinvent the wheel each time," Labour Minister Kelly Regan said.
Roughly 700 Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) home care workers in Shelburne, Barrington, Pictou, the Annapolis Valley and Colchester County will be in a legal strike position March 4.
Northwood is preparing for a strike. Senior director Sandra Bauld said most of Northwood's 1,800 clients have made alternate arrangements. But some, including the most frail and those without family members, have not.
"We are looking to have other agencies who are not in the unionized work world to provide services for those clients," she said.