Nova Scotia

Health-care unions allege unfair bargaining, ask labour board to intervene

The four unions bargaining on behalf of Nova Scotia's health-care workers say the provincial health authority and the IWK are failing to provide critical information for negotiations.

Unions accuse health authorities of failing to provide critical information for bargaining

Talks between health-care unions and the province's two health authorities have hit an impasse as the unions wait for more information. (John Panella/Shutterstock)

The group negotiating on behalf of health-care workers in Nova Scotia is alleging unfair bargaining against the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the IWK Health Centre.

The bargaining council — which includes representatives for the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, Unifor and CUPE — filed a complaint Thursday with the provincial labour board.

At the heart of the complaint is the inability of the unions to get the employers' positions on sick leave, health plans and job evaluations.

Sandra Mullen, acting NSGEU president, called it "highly unusual" for the unions not to have that information during negotiations.

Slow-moving negotiations

While negotiations between the province and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union have dominated headlines for the last few months, there have been slow-going talks between the health authorities and the unions since 2015 when the bargaining council was created.

For a while, the unions refused to negotiate until agreements on essential services, which stipulate what and how many employees must keep working during a strike, were reached.

However, talks began last fall after the health authorities called on the labour minister to send the matter to the labour board.

Mullen said talks continue on the essential service agreements.

"We're representing at this table 5,000 employees across the province with [approximately] 180 ... occupations, so trying to determine essential services is complicated," she said.

Unions cancel dates

While negotiation dates were scheduled from last September to December, seven dates were cancelled by the union after the employers failed to provide the information on sick leave, benefits and job evaluations.

Without that information, talks are at an impasse, said Mullen, so it didn't seem worth continuing to meet.

Her hope is Thursday's complaint will lead to the release of the information so talks can resume.

Health-care workers have been without a contract for about two years, a situation Mullen called stressful.

"We are doing our part," she said. 

"We have worked together with the other unions in bringing forward our proposal. That was very challenging in itself and we're doing our part and we're waiting to hear from the employer."

A news release from the provincial health authority and the IWK said they "look forward to going to the labour board in hopes that we can resolve our issues and move forward with the bargaining process in a timely fashion."

The release did not directly address the unions' concerns.


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