Nova Scotia

N.S. heath-care unions reach tentative contract deal, strike vote ends

Health-care unions in Nova Scotia have reached a tentative contract agreement, the day after a strike vote began. The council of health-care unions, which includes NSGEU, CUPE and Unifor, is urging members to rarify the deal.

Council of unions says it is happy with wage offer, language improvements

Lab techs are among the workers covered by the current contract negotiations. The council of health-care unions is recommending their members take the latest deal. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Health-care unions in Nova Scotia have reached a tentative contract agreement, putting an end to a strike vote that began the day before.

The deal was reached late Tuesday between the council of health-care unions and employers Nova Scotia Health and the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

That agreement will now be taken to the almost 7,500 members within the council for a ratification vote.

They include all non-nursing health-care workers, including lab technologists, physiotherapists, social workers and mental health clinicians, represented by the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and Unifor. 

Union leadership is recommending ratification. 

"This agreement includes a wage offer and language improvements that are reasonable and recognize the significant contributions health-care workers make each and every day," NSGEU president Jason MacLean said in a news release.

Last month, the unions made a direct appeal to Premier Iain Rankin to step in and allow any issues not resolved during conciliation to go to arbitration, threatening a strike if a deal could not be reached.

Their letter said wages for Nova Scotia health-care workers have fallen below where they should be in comparison to other provinces following "seven years of wage austerity."

MacLean says the tentative agreement includes a wage offer and language improvements. (Radio-Canada)

MacLean said at the time that they were finding it difficult to get the employers back to the bargaining table. 

After one meeting in the spring, seven dates in April and May were cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. MacLean said they were unable to get the employer to commit to other dates, which is why they filed for conciliation on May 10.

Steve Ashton, a vice-president with the IWK, said that was not the case and the process was put on hold as the employers dealt with the province's third wave of COVID-19.

Les Duff, acting president of CUPE Local 8920, said that after five days of conciliation, the deal was enough to reverse the decision asking members to contemplate strike action.

Details of the agreement will not be shared until all members have had the opportunity to review and vote on it.

The union bargaining committee is made up of six members from NSGEU, three from CUPE and one from Unifor. 

Halifax care facility waiting on negotiations

Northwood has also been waiting for this moment.

Contract talks at the long-term care home in Halifax have stalled, and Unifor told CBC news in June that its 520 members at the facility have been forced to wait until the contract dispute with other health-care unions is resolved.

Unifor said contract talks began on April 21 and the union was expecting to receive a response from Northwood by June 29, but instead Northwood's lead negotiator explained the care home did not have a mandate from the government. Northwood is a non-profit and is reliant upon the provincial government for funding.

A provincial spokesperson has said the union is filing for conciliation for Northwood, and a conciliator has yet to be appointed.