Progress made in N.S. health care bargaining
The Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions just completed six days of conciliation in January with the employers, the Nova Scotia Health Authority and IWK Hospital, and another 12 days of bargaining are scheduled for this spring.
Bargaining has produced some steady progress but the employers have also tabled several significant concessions. The employer is seeking concessions which the unions believe directly contradicts Premier Stephen McNeil’s claim that health care workers would not lose benefits as a result of amalgamation.
The employer’s proposals have not been accepted by the Council and are just the latest in the Liberal government’s attack on workers after McNeil used legislation to freeze wages and retirement benefits, which leave most Nova Scotia health care workers among the lowest paid in the country.
Progress has been gained however as the parties have reached a tentative agreement on 22 of 46 complete articles in the NSHA agreement and 24 of 46 articles in the IWK agreement.
Since both the Council and the employers based all proposals on the current NSGEU local 42 collective agreement, the council estimates it is nearly 70 per cent of the way towards reaching a tentative agreement for IWK and NASHA. However, the most difficult and contentious issues such as: benefits, wages, job security, retirement allowance, job posting, hours of work, sick leave and re-assignment remain outstanding.
This complex set of negotiations has proven to be a long and challenging process but the Council is working collectively to make sure progress continues in the best interest of all members.
Bargaining will continue on February 26, 27, March 19, 20, 21, April 10, 11, 12, May 2, 3, 4. Other dates may be added if required.
In conjunction with bargaining, the Council also continues to work toward negotiating an essential services agreement (ESA) which would cover all 6,500 health care bargaining unit members.
Although the employers’ essential services negotiators walked away from talks last summer, there was agreement to return to the table on March 6. Negotiating an ESA is now a requirement for the union as Bill 37, a new Liberal legislation, requires it to be in place before a strike or job action action happen.
The committees representing administrative professionals, support and nursing are preparing to start their bargaining once an agreement is reached in health care.
For more information, please contact Unifor bargaining committee members:
Susan Gill, National Representative firstname.lastname@example.org
Limited progress in conciliation for Nova Scotia Health Care
The Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions, and the employers, (NSHA and IWK) have completed three days of conciliation and plan to meet again in January for another five days. The three days of meetings in November provided good discussion and some progress. However, a lot of work remains.
To date the parties have held 27 bargaining sessions to conduct a very complex set of negotiations that require bringing together collective agreements from all four unions (Unifor, NSGEU, CUPE, and NSNU) in the acute care and community care sectors.
The sector bargaining was imposed upon the unions when the provincial Liberal government created a single provincial health authority.
Despite some progress in negotiations, a number of very significant items remain outstanding including: job posting, job security, sick leave, group benefits, retiree benefits, vacation scheduling, leaves, overtime, hours of work and more.
This continues to be a challenging bargaining process but the Council is working well together to make sure progress continues on behalf of members.
It is important to note that the task was made much more difficult when the Nova Scotia Liberal government enacted legislation freezing the retirement allowance of union members and imposing wage restraint including two years with a zero per cent increase.
Coinciding with bargaining, the Council continues to work toward negotiating an essential services agreement (ESA) with the employers. The ESA is being negotiated for the first time and was required by another Liberal Government piece of legislation. The Liberal legislation prohibits the unions from conducting a strike until an essential services agreement is reached, which has severely limited the Council’s leverage at the bargaining table. Once established the ESA will determine which positions are deemed a part of an essential service to continue working in the event of a labour disruption, strike or lock-out.
The ESA will cover all 6,500 health care workers across the province, making it a very complex task. Adding to the complications of negotiating an ESA, the Employers’ essential services negotiators walked away from the table in the summer and have refused to come back.
Once the essential services negotiations are complete in the coming months, the Council expects to make more progress in bargaining new collective agreements.
The Health Care Council of Unions bargaining committee is made up of six members from NSGEU, three from CUPE and one from Unifor. The Nova Scotia Nurses Union (NSNU) is also part of the Health Care Council. Health Care Bargaining Council is the lead table in this round of healthcare negotiations. The committee representing administrative professionals, support and nursing are preparing to start their bargaining once an agreement is reached in health care.
For more information please contact Unifor bargaining committee members:
Susan Gill, National Representative email@example.com
Jamie Pollock, President Local 4600 firstname.lastname@example.org
Conciliation begins this week
Conciliation begins November 9 with the Nova Scotia Council of Healthcare Unions, which is trying to reach a fair collective agreement for hundreds of workers in employed by the Nova Scotia Health Authority and IWK. The council is made up of bargaining committee members from Unifor, NSGEU, CUPE and NSNU.
The Department of Labour and Advanced Education has appointed Christina Browning to act as conciliator and meetings are scheduled for November 9, 10, and 16.
Talks broke down with the employers in October with Unifor Local 4600 along with NSGEU, CUPE and NSNU. It is expected conciliation will take more than these three meeting dates due to the complexity of the task and given that the unions and the employer are significantly apart but the process is continuing to move forward.
The Council of Union negotiators continues to try and reach an essential services agreement so the Council may be in a position to begin job action, but the Employers’ essential services negotiators walked away from the table in the summer.
The Council negotiators are working to finalize their essential services proposal in the hopes of re-starting discussions in the coming weeks.
This round of bargaining has been a long and at times frustrating process for health care members. The McNeil Liberals have used their majority government unlike any other provincial government in Canada to invoke multiple pieces of anti-union legislation. Employer negotiators still refuse to table their proposed changes to sick leave benefits for health care workers.
In spite of these barriers the Bargaining Committee has fought hard during these negotiations to protect key benefits that members have negotiated over the past four decades. For example, Employer negotiators continue to make clear they want complete control of health and dental benefits plans. If the Council of Healthcare Unions were to give up this control, the Employers could make unilateral changes to benefits without the agreement of the unions.
For more information, please contact:
Susan Gill National Representative email@example.com (902) 562-3857
Jamie Pollock President Local 4600 firstname.lastname@example.org