Liberal government to alter rules for Nova Scotia Nurses' Union
Battle for right to represent province's 9,620 nurses
The Liberal government is going to alter its Health Authorities Act to ensure the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union is picked by an arbitrator to bargain on behalf of the province's 9,620 nurses.
Premier Stephen McNeil said Thursday his government will pass regulations to meet a condition from arbitrator James Dorsey, as he sorts all of Nova Scotia's 24,000 health-care workers into four separate bargaining units.
"We're responding to his request. He asked us, so that's what we are doing," McNeil told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting.
Dorsey is insisting a union have a clear majority of workers before it can be picked as a bargaining agent.
The Liberals will make the newly created Provincial Health Authority and the IWK Health Centre a single employer for the purposes of bargaining. Dorsey said that step — known as option three — would give the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union a majority of the nurses, at 53.7 per cent.
"Dorsey gave us three options and option three is the one we've taken. It is clearly under the Health Authorities Act that its there and we will move," said McNeil.
"It doesn't affect the IWK's independence. What it does is solely affects the collective bargaining process."
McNeil's government is reducing health-care bargaining units from 50 to four in an effort to control costs.
Four separate unions — the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, UNIFOR and CUPE — currently represent either registered nurses or licensed practical nurses.
The Liberals want the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union selected as the bargaining agent for RNs and LPNs. It currently represents 5,166 of them.
The province's largest public sector union — the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union — is not far behind with 3,498, mostly in Halifax.
The rest of the nurses are currently represented by CUPE and Unifor.
The competition between the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union has been testy.
Dorsey reserved a decision on allotting the nurses to a specific bargaining unit until he hold further arbitration hearings in early February. All four unions have agreed to a media black out as they explore their options.