Nova Scotia

Capital Health raises could mean layoffs: Dexter

The raises coming to about 3,600 employees with the Capital District Health Authority could result in layoffs, Premier Darrell Dexter said Tuesday.

The raises coming to about 3,600 employees with the Capital District Health Authority could result in layoffs, Premier Darrell Dexter said Tuesday.

"Unions, when they're negotiating, know or should know that increases in wages sometimes lead to reductions in staff," he said.

Members of Local 42 of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union voted overwhelmingly to accept a new contract agreement.

Part of that agreement means the issue of wages will be sent to an arbitrator, who will come up with a three-year wage increase between 6.5 per cent and nine per cent.

Dexter said he expects the raises will cost between $3.3 million and $4.9 million in the first year of the agreement.

The Capital District Health Authority has budgeted for some of the cost and the province will add to that amount, but Dexter said some of the money will have to come from savings.

"We're going to also go back and talk to them about how we can contain costs because we still have to be able to meet our budgetary objectives," he told reporters.

"If we can do it without affecting staffing levels, of course we'd love to be able to do that. But there are just certain realities. Staffing costs are the biggest single cost."

Joan Jessome, the president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, said layoffs were never part of the deal.

Premier's comments 'shameful', says union

"We didn't negotiate a raise at the cost of people being put on the unemployment line," she told CBC News on Tuesday.

"To now put on to the shoulders of workers that if they get a raise it's going to be at the cost of others losing their jobs? I think that's actually shameful."

Jessome said she believes Dexter's comments were designed to send a message to other public sector workers gearing up for their own contract negotiations.

"He's trying to dampen the expectations of all of the other public sector workers that are either at the bargaining table or coming to the bargaining table," she said.

Dexter said the possibility of layoffs should not come as a surprise to anyone, least of all health workers.

"I don't think I'm saying anything that people who reasonably look at the situation wouldn't already understand," he said.

"Certainly, people who are knowledgeable about the health-care system would know it better than most."

The arbitrator is expected to report back on the wage increases by June 15.