Nova Scotia

Health support workers file for conciliation as contract talks stall

The unions representing 3,000 health support workers have filed for conciliation because they say contract talks with Nova Scotia Health and the IWK Health Centre have reached an impasse.

Unions want a contract that addresses inflation, low wages, long-term vacancies

The health support bargaining unit includes people who work in environmental services. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

The unions representing 3,000 health support workers have jointly filed for conciliation with the employer because contract talks with Nova Scotia Health and the IWK Health Centre have reached an impasse.

In a news release, representatives for Unifor, CUPE and the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union say they're looking for a new contract that will help workers with the rising costs related to inflation and address long-term vacancies caused by low salaries and a lack of permanent employment.

"Support unit workers don't get the attention the more visible members of the health-care teams do, but they are just as integral to the operation of our health-care services and need to be respected for the essential work they do," Linda MacNeil, Unifor's Atlantic regional director, said in a news release.

The bargaining unit includes work classifications such as maintenance, power engineering, plumbing, electrical, laundry, food services and environmental services.

The unions say there were eight days of bargaining over five months with the employers, with little progress. The most recent contract expired Oct. 31, 2020.

A spokesperson for Nova Scotia Health said officials there and with the IWK agreed to file the joint application with the province's Labour Department for a conciliator to help both sides reach a new contract.

"Requesting conciliation is a normal part of the collective bargaining process and does not mean any job action or strike action is imminent," said the statement.

"The IWK and Nova Scotia Health have a responsibility to our employees and the public to negotiate fair contracts. Fair contracts are necessary to support our employees and advance our ability to deliver and improve the quality of health services to meet the needs of the people we serve in Nova Scotia and from across the Maritimes."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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