Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia reaches agreement with health-care unions

The province and the four unions representing all employees of the district health authorities and the IWK Health Centre have reached a deal regarding union representation under Nova Scotia's contentious Bill 1.

Health unions are pleased with the outcome

Asked if the health unions won in the showdown with the provincial government, Premier Stephen McNeil said health care patients are the winner. (CBC)

The province and the four unions representing all employees of the district health authorities and the IWK Health Centre have reached a deal regarding union representation under Nova Scotia's contentious Bill 1.

The Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, Unifor, the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees will continue representing their members.

It's a decision union leaders are happy with. 

"I see this as a huge win for us and our members and for everybody that sits at this table," said Danny Cavanagh, the regional vice-president for CUPE.

NSNU president Janet Hazelton has similar enthusiasm for the deal.

"I'm thrilled that all the nurses in this province, licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and nurse practitioners, will be at the same bargaining table. We will have one collective agreement. I see this as a huge win for the nursing profession," she said.

Union leaders did express frustration with the contentious discussions that have taken place over the last six months.

"I think we also shouldn't underestimate the incredible confusion, upheaval, that has been occurring in health care over the last year or so because workers haven't known their reality," said Lana Payne, Unifor's Atlantic director.

She added this has caused a lot of stress for health care workers, in addition to the regular workplace stress they are exposed to.

The Health Authorities Act requires separate bargaining units for nurses, health-care workers, clerical workers and support staff.

Who's bargaining for whom?

Under the agreement, the unions will bargain on behalf of:

  • Nova Scotia Nurses' Union — nurses
  • Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union — health-care workers
  • Unifor ​— support workers
  • ​Canadian Union of Public Employees — clerical workers

The unions will work together on contract demands and then each single union will negotiate directly with the province.

Premier Stephen McNeil was asked if the health care unions won the showdown with the provincial government, he said another party is the winner.

"Patients won," he said.

The agreement marks an end to a bitter fight between the province and the unions, which began Sept. 25, 2014 when the Liberals announced in their throne speech plans to reorganize the unions representing health-care workers.

It's been a tumultuous few months since:

  • Sept. 25, 2014 — Government throne speech announces health union merger.
  • Sept. 26 — Governing Liberals introduce Health Authorities Act. Bill 1 set out four categories of workers and stipulated each shall be represented by one union.
  • Oct. 2 — Bill 1 becomes law.
  • Oct. 9 — Province names James Dorsey to mediate dispute between health unions and province.
  • Nov. 18 — Mediation fails, so arbitration begins.
  • Dec. 9 to 14 — Formal arbitration hearings take place.
  • Dec. 15 — Nova Scotia government extends arbitration at the request of Dorsey.
  • Jan. 19, 2015 — Dorsey delivers report, but it is inconclusive.
  • Feb. 20 — Dorsey delivers follow-up report (still inconclusive). Health Minister Leo Glavine fires Dorsey and promises to introduce law to designate union membership.
  • Feb. 25 — Dorsey delivers his third report.
  • March 3 — Premier Stephen McNeil takes over the government file. Government and unions agree to negotiate a settlement.
  • ​March 13​ — A deal is announced.

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