Thousands of administrative professionals working in the health care system throughout Nova Scotia are gearing up to hit the picket lines, as their employers continue to drag their feet on bargaining and hide behind anti-union legislation.
Union representatives met with representatives from Nova Scotia Health and Health Association of Nova Scotia today for yet another frustrating attempt to conclude an essential services agreement, as is required by the Health Authorities Act. This legislation was passed by Stephen McNeil’s government in a blatant attempt to diminish the effectiveness of a strike, as is evidenced now by these employers using it as a shield to prevent job action.
“Tim Houston’s government may not have written this legislation, but he helped pass it, and he is clearly allowing these employers to exploit it – and these workers – who are just trying to achieve a fair collective agreement,” said NSGEU President Sandra Mullen.
These hard-working professionals now have a contract that expired almost three years ago. The employer and government have offered these workers a deal that amounts to a wage decrease, while other groups of health care workers have been offered much more.
“Premier Houston promised to fix health care,” said Bev Strachan, President of CUPE Local 8920, “but at a time when his government has just reported an unexpected $2 billion in revenue, he’s choosing to ignore thousands of folks who are making as little as $20 per hour – leaving them among the lowest paid health care workers in Atlantic Canada.”
“The Premier made it clear in the past that he doesn’t think low wage work is real work, but these low wage admin workers keep our health care system functioning,” said Susan Gill, Unifor National Representative, “These jobs require post-secondary education, even for the entry-level positions, so it’s shameful our government is content to pay those carrying substantial student debt so little. It’s time to get back to the table with a fair offer.”
Administrative professionals working for the NSH and IWK – represented by CUPE, NSGEU, and Unifor who bargain together in the Council of Unions – have been trying to conclude a fair collective agreement since October 2022. Members rejected a tentative agreement brought forward in April 2023, then gave the unions a strong strike mandate in June. Once an essential services plan is in place and the required two-week notice period has elapsed, thousands of health care workers across the province will be in a legal strike position.
There are more than 5,000 administrative professionals – approximately 85 per cent of whom are women – working in hospitals and community care settings throughout Nova Scotia, performing critical tasks. They are the first point of contact with patients; manage registrations; control the switchboard and communications; ensure test labels are accurate; assign beds; share lab results with clinical staff; book appointments, transfers and admissions; order and receive supplies; manage payroll; and much more. Without these professionals and their labour, health care doesn’t work, and it’s time the employer and government returned to the table to offer a deal that acknowledges that.
For more information, contact:
CUPE National Representative, Deputy Lead Negotiator
NSGEU Communications Officer
Unifor National Communications Representative
CUPE Atlantic Communications Representative