Nurses outside the Halifax region are ready to walk off the job if they don't get wage parity with their colleagues at Capital Health, their union leader says.
Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, repeated the union's demands Tuesday as her group meets in Truro for its annual general meeting.
"The direction I got from my leadership is under no circumstances will we accept less for the nurses of the nurses' union than the nurses in Capital Health," she told CBC News.
When asked if that could mean a strike, she replied, "Yes, that's exactly what it would mean."
Last November, an arbitrator awarded the 2,500 nurses in Capital Health a wage increase of 7.1 per cent over three years — well above the one per cent a year they were offered. Two months later, the province announced it would cover that extra $5.5 million.
The NSNU represents about 6,500 nurses at hospitals and care centres around the province. Contract talks for acute-care workers begin later this month, while talks for long-term care workers start in June.
"We believe that it's imperative that we have wage parity with registered nurses," Hazelton said.
"We believe our employers are on side because they have no interest in pitting the rural nurses of Nova Scotia against the Metro nurses. There's no value in that. All it does is create some dissension amongst nurses, among employers, and then we start to compete for nurses.
"Nurses should work where they want to work … not because there's an extra 20 cents an hour to work in another location."
Last month, about 3,600 employees at Capital Health threatened to go on strike to back their demands for wage parity with registered nurses, among other concerns.
The health district — the biggest in Nova Scotia — cancelled hundreds of surgeries and appointments in anticipation of a walkout.
The lab techs, social workers and other employees accepted a mediated deal that gives them a three-year wage increase between 6.5 per cent and nine per cent.
Premier Darrell Dexter later said those raises will cost up to $4.9 million in the first year of the deal, and that could result in layoffs.