About 6,000 nurses in Nova Scotia have ratified a two-year agreement that provides them wage increases of 5.5 per cent.
Janet Hazelton, the president of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, said the deal offers the Victorian Order of Nurses, long-term care nurses and acute care nurses a pay hike of 2.5 per cent retroactive to November 2012 and another of three per cent as of this month.
The Victorian Order of Nurses deal was accepted by 97 per cent of the nurses who voted on the deal. The deal for long-term care nurses was ratified by 95 per cent of the people who voted and the acute care deal was accepted by 98 per cent of workers who voted.
Hazelton told CBC News she is especially pleased the agreement has been ratified because it includes terms that allows nurses to address issues affecting their workload and staffing issues.
"There's a process that our nurse colleagues in Ontario and Manitoba and Saskatchewan have used quite successfully and we mirrored it," she said.
"What it does is it gives the nurses an opportunity to articulate their issues or their staffing concerns and if not addressed properly, it goes to an independent advisory committee who makes recommendations to the employer that are public about what staffing changes should occur in order to provide safe staffing."
Contract expires October 2014
Hazelton said nurse colleagues in Ontario have been successful in getting the number of nurses at patient bedsides increased and she expects a similar situation in Nova Scotia once the system is put in place.
"In a particularly busy emergency department where a sick call — one sick call — would put them into crisis, the nurses expressed their concern," she said.
"Through the recommendations, they were able to get another RN on the night shift, another RN to help with education and an LPN to triage the patients as they waited to be seen. That's significant in an emergency department to get three full-time nursing staff added."
Hazelton said she's hoping to see results from the changes within a year once the process is rolled out to the nurses.
"We've tried different models and different tools throughout our existence to address safe staffing and I think this time, because of the independent advisory committee, we're most excited," Hazelton said.
"This is not going to be a cookie cutter approach. We're hoping that our nurses will become engaged and they'll see results and when they see results, they'll become more enthusiastic about the process and a little happier about coming to work."
The contract expires Oct. 31, 2014.