Nova Scotia

Nurses' strike in Nova Scotia may be averted

Late Friday, the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union in Halifax's Capital Health District tentatively agreed to send their issues to binding arbitration.

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, representing Local 97 — the nurses' bargaining unit — in Halifax's Capital Health District tentatively agreed late Friday to send their issues to binding arbitration.

Nurses at the largest hospital in the Maritimes will now vote on whether they'll settle a contract dispute through binding arbitration.

The 2,500 nurses work mainly at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.

"We had a local that was determined, we had an 89-per cent strike vote, and they were determined to actually exercise their right. And I don't think government nor the employer wanted a strike at a tertiary care hospital," said Joan Jessome, president of the NSGEU.

If the registered nurses vote to accept the binding arbitration proposal, no job action will occur.

"It floored us, we didn't expect it, and it's certainly not something we were going to turn down," said Jessome. "We spent a fair amount of time throughout the day talking about it, what it would look like, if the members would accept it."

"By the end of this evening when we left the Holiday Inn, we were comfortable that it is something we could recommend to the members, and we will be doing that."

Jessome believes the government offered arbitration because of a strong strike vote, and to avoid a strike at a hospital that treats the most seriously ill patients.

The nurses' contract expired Oct. 31, 2009.

The major outstanding issue has been wages.

Jessome said nurses would vote by the end of the week on whether to accept arbitration.

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