Capital Health prepares for strike
Contract talks with NSGEU Local 42 break down
Nova Scotia's largest health authority says it will start cancelling surgeries in mid-April, one week before a possible strike by about 3,600 of its workers.
Contract talks between the Capital District Health Authority and the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union broke off Thursday after three days of meetings with a conciliator.
If the conciliator files a report by Tuesday as expected, the members of NSGEU Local 42 could walk off the job on April 25.
Kathy MacNeil, the vice-president of people for the Capital District Health Authority, said patients can expect to see reduced services a week before that date to be able to safely operate with emergency staffing levels.
"The kinds of things that we could anticipate would be changing in that seven-day window would be things like surgical procedures that would have a length-of-stay of seven days or longer," MacNeil told CBC News on Thursday.
"We'd have to look to make sure that we would have the kinds of staffing available after that seven-day period that the patients could receive the quality care that they deserve."
If the members of Local 42 — which includes licensed practical nurses, occupational therapists and medical laboratory technologists — go on strike, about 100 surgeries a day will be cancelled.
Members want 5.1 per cent increase
NSGEU president Joan Jessome said the Capital District Health Authority would not match a 5.1 per cent raise that was awarded to registered nurses through binding arbitration.
She said the offer of one per cent a year for three years is too low.
"We'll go back to the table any day. We didn't move our ceiling, they didn't move the floor," Jessome told reporters.
Tracey Fisk, the president of Local 42, said it's only fair that her members get the same raise that registered nurses got.
"We are not competing with them, what they do is vital. They're a part of health care but so are we. I was hoping they would have some kind of offer that they would try to negotiate," she said.
"As far as I understand — I wasn't sitting at the table — but I don't think there was any back and forth."
But MacNeil said the health authority cannot afford to pay more. She said the union wants wage hikes worth nearly 11 per cent over three years for all members and even more money for certain jobs.
"There was still a cost of $26 million left on the table in terms of proposals from Local 42 that we just could not afford at Capital Health," she said.
Last month, unionized workers voted 91 per cent in favour of a strike.