Bill 1 arbitration decision orders a collaborative bargaining structure


HALIFAX, Jan. 19, 2015 /CNW/ - Arbitrator James Dorsey's Bill 1 decision supports Unifor's position that the Nova Scotia government's health care restructuring legislation allows the existing health care unions to create province-wide collective bargaining agents.

Dorsey issued his decision Monday resulting from the December arbitration involving Unifor and the other three major health care unions in the province. 

"Unifor members were active and vocal about their opposition to Bill 1," said Lana Payne, Atlantic Regional Director of Unifor. "Their commitment to their union and refusal to give up their rights were clearly noticed."

"Unifor is committed to working with the other unions and Mr. Dorsey to create a collaborative amalgamated bargaining structure that meets the needs of our members, and protects their constitutional rights," said Payne.

Dorsey's decision also meets the objectives of the government's health care reforms and the requirements of the Health Authorities Act, Payne pointed out.

While Mr. Dorsey concluded that there is still a lot of work to be done to create the proper structure for such multi-union bargaining agents, his approval of the proposal opens the door that Health Minister Leo Glavine closed in October of last year before the government introduced the legislation.

Mr. Dorsey found that the creation of a "Nova Scotia Health Care Amalgamated Union" would resolve many of the problems posed by the legislation.  

However, the status of Licensed Practical Nurses and which bargaining unit they should belong to and who should represent them has been left for further discussion when the hearing resumes on February 2, 2015.  As part of his decision, Mr. Dorsey also included agreements reached between the unions and the employer regarding how seniority will be applied in the new structure.

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During the spring and summer of 2014, the four health care unions worked together to develop a labour solution that would appropriately address the government's request to streamline bargaining in light of their plan to amalgamate the district health authorities from nine across the province to one, plus the IWK. Their solution was to form a bargaining association that would see all health care members remain with their current unions but to bargain together.

When McNeil's Liberal government passed Bill 1 on October 3, they had not accepted the unions' proposal and instead initiated a process of mediation and arbitration under tight deadlines that would determine union representation and the makeup of the four bargaining units.

Going into arbitration, Unifor was focused on protecting its members, their Charter rights, their working conditions and their hard-fought gains achieved over many years in collective bargaining.

It was also about finding a solution that prevented the pitting of worker against worker and union and against union which Bill 1 promotes.

Arbitration hearings will resume again on February 2 in Halifax.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 workers, including more than 2,400 health care workers in Nova Scotia. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged.