Beyond the Headlines

Adding up the costs of the health care deal

Posted: May 2, 2012 1:54 PM ET Last Updated: May 2, 2012 1:54 PM ET
It took some poking and prodding but Premier Darrell Dexter has finally revealed the cost of the new contract for 3,600 NSGEU members at Capital Health.
The province says it will cost anywhere from $3.3 million to $4.9 million - the exact amount depends on the arbitration board that will consider raises ranging from 6.5% over three years (Capital Health's offer) to just over 9% (NSGEU's position).
But that's just the cost in year one.

In the second year the cost will increase to anywhere from $3.5 million to $5.2 million. In year three that goes up to somewhere between $3.8 million and about $5.5 million.
So in the end, that one contract will cost Capital Health and the province, anywhere from $10.6 million to $15.6 million.
Remember: this is just one contract. There are plenty more health care employees waiting to begin negotiations, and every one of them is going to want at least as good a deal as the one their co-workers just won.
And that list is a long one.
The NSGEU alone has several more locals about to enter negotiations at Capital Health. Local 19 has 1,200 kitchen, cleaning and laundry staff. Local 246 represents 1,500 clerical and administrative workers and don't forget Local 97 with 2,500 nurses. The NSGEU is also working on a new contract for 750 members at the IWK.
And then there is the Nova Scotia Nurses Union which represents 6,500 nurses across the province. They expect to begin negotiations sometime in the next few weeks.
You can bet when all those locals sit down at the bargaining table the first thing they'll do is remind the employer of the NSGEU deal.
Janet Hazelton, the president of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, says she views the raises in that contract as the baseline for negotiations. Hazelton makes it clear her members will not settle for anything less, and will probably be looking for an even better deal.
The provincial government says it still hasn't figured out how it will cover the costs of the NSGEU contract. This week Premier Darrell Dexter confirmed his government is talking to Capital Health about finding more more ways to trim costs, even hinting at the possibility of job cuts.

That musing about job losses isn't sitting well with the Nurses' Union. Hazelton calls it a threat to "good faith bargaining".

"We will be seeking wage parity among RNs and LPNs in upcoming negotiations, and we shouldn't be threatened with consequences before we go to the table", says Hazelton.
Threats or not, one thing is certain. This deal has become the benchmark for all the union locals about to negotiate new contracts. Contracts that will add tens of millions of dollars in costs to an already burgeoning health care budget.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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