Union protest

Union members marched through the Westin Hotel Saturday where the Nova Scotia Liberal Party was holding its annual general meeting. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Hundreds of union members picketed Saturday at the annual general meeting of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, protesting essential services legislation the McNeil government introduced last month.

The legislation forced hundreds of Northwood home support workers back to work, and registered nurses at the Capital District Health Authority say they fear they will be targeted with a similar law.

Protesters marched through the Westin Hotel in Halifax where the Liberal meeting was taking place. The demonstration was organized by the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union. Members from other unions in Nova Scotia joined.

"On behalf of the people of this province, we’re fighting for safe patient care," NSGEU president Joan Jessome said. "We’re fighting for parity for people who take care of you in your homes. We're fighting for workers rights."

More than 2,300 registered nurses will be in a legal strike position April 3. One of the main sticking points during contract negotiations has been the union demand for nurse-to-patient ratios, something opposed by Capital Health.

Negotiations broke off last week, but both sides are being called back on Monday by a government-appointed mediator.

On Friday evening, Premier Stephen McNeil addressed the contract dispute during a speech at the Liberal meeting.

"It is my sincere hope that we can find a resolution at the table," he said. "But if not, our government will act, not for the employer or the union, but we'll act on behalf of Nova Scotians."