Nova Scotia

Hospital workers vote 91% in favour of strike

Thousands of health-care workers employed by the Capital District Health Authority in Nova Scotia have voted in favour of a strike.
Ballots were counted Monday. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

Thousands of health-care workers employed by the Capital District Health Authority in Nova Scotia have voted in favour of a strike.

Members of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union Local 42 voted 91 per cent in favour of the strike, union president Joan Jessome said Monday.

The 3,800 workers, including licensed practical nurses, occupational therapists and medical laboratory technologists, are looking for a 5.1 per cent wage increase.

"With a strike vote in our hands and a conciliation being the lead to a countdown to strike, I think there'll certainly be movement on the employers to avert job action," said Jessome.

A possible strike is still weeks away and the two sides are scheduled to return to the bargaining table on April 3 for three days of talks.

There is an emergency services agreement in place in case of a strike or lockout, Jessome said. It keeps services like emergency rooms running, but not at full capacity.

"We do have an emergency services agreement for emergency services only," said Kathy MacNeil, vice president for People Services at the Capital District Health Authority.

"We would be able to provide some levels of care for days, not weeks or months and there's no question that access to care and the types of care delivered would be impacted."

Talks broke down in February between the two sides with wages being the biggest stumbling block in contract negotiations.

Last year, registered nurses received a wage increase of 5.1 per cent through binding arbitration, making them the highest paid in the Maritimes.

"These workers deserve the same rate increase as the RNs received … they work for the same employers, they work in the same facility and they deliver health care. It's cost of living issue," Jessome said.

The Capital District Health Authority is offering a wage increase of one per cent in each of the next three years. It also wants concessions on sick time and overtime.

"We're seeing high levels of labour unrest in many areas of our province, so I'm not surprised at all that the members showed up in record numbers and are feeling very strongly that they want to send a message on this issue," MacNeil said.

With files from The Canadian Press