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Frequently Asked Questions: Health Councils

REMINDER! All members working in the acute health care system are being asked to vote on the issue of Health Councils. The electronic vote started Wednesday, March 25th and will remain open until Wednesday, April 1st at 5 p.m. Please take a moment to cast your ballot. If you have any questions, contact the NSGEU between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, or 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, by calling 902-424-4063 (toll-free 1-877-556-7438).

THE BASICS

So how exactly does the Council of Unions work?

After receiving an offer from the government, the four unions sat down and worked out a constitution that would set ground rules for how the Councils would operate. There are four Councils: one for Health Care, Nursing, Administrative Professionals and Support Services. They operate in the same way with the same constitutions.

Each Council has two main purposes:

  1. They negotiate contracts for each of the four bargaining units at both the IWK and the newly established Provincial Health Authority;
  2. They will negotiate the essential services agreements required before any future job action or strike can take place.

It is important to note that each union will continue to represent their current membership as they do now for every other aspect of labour relations including the filing of grievances, college complaints, and pension and benefit discussions that take place outside of bargaining.

You can read the full constitutions for each bargaining unit here.

How will bargaining work?

There will be four collective agreements for health care workers across the province and at the IWK; one each for Administrative Professionals, Support Services, Nursing and Healthcare. The Council will negotiate each of these agreements.

How will we determine who is on the bargaining committees?

Each union will appoint negotiators for the four sectors as follows:

  • Nursing Bargaining – NSNU will appoint the chief negotiator, NSGEU will appoint the deputy chief negotiator;
  • Healthcare Bargaining – NSGEU will appoint the chief negotiator, CUPE will appoint the deputy chief negotiator;
  • Administrative Professionals Bargaining – CUPE will appoint the chief negotiator, NSGEU will appoint the deputy chief negotiator; and
  • Support Services Bargaining – Unifor will appoint the chief negotiator, NSGEU will appoint the deputy chief negotiator.

The two unions with the largest membership in each sector will appoint a chair of the bargaining committee. That means NSGEU will have bargaining co-chairs in all four bargaining units.

Finally, and very importantly, the number of members on each bargaining committee will be proportional to the number of members each union has in each of the four bargaining units.

So, NSGEU will have the most members on the Administrative Professionals, Support Services and Healthcare bargaining committees and the second most members on the Nursing bargaining committee.

For the NSGEU, the bargaining committees are elected from the local.

YOUR CONTRACT & BENEFITS

Does this mean I will lose some of my current rights & benefits, because the new “lead” union may favour their own contract language?

Arbitrator Dorsey’s order that all existing collective agreements be stapled together and then taken into bargaining means that all current benefits will continue until negotiations are complete. The NSGEU will be play a strong role at each bargaining table, and will continue to bargain hard to ensure all workers maintain the best possible contract language.

I know that health care workers in different parts of the province have different health benefit plans. What will happen to my health benefits?

As of April 1st, you will be covered under the same health benefits plan. We expect health benefits are something that may be brought to the bargaining table by the employer as something to be negotiated in your next collective agreement. The NSGEU will have a strong presence at every table and will stand up to maintain our current benefits.

Will the groups that were to be moved out of Health Care (to Support Services or Administrative Professionals) still be moved? If so, which union will represent them?

Yes. During the arbitration process, the NSGEU argued that all positions should remain where they were. Unfortunately, the arbitrator and employer did not agree, and some positions are being moved into the Support Services and Administrative Professional groupings as of April 1st, 2015. If you are unsure about which bargaining unit you will be in as of April 1st, 2015, please call the NSGEU at 902-424-4063 (toll-free 1-877-556-7438).

However, if you are currently an NSGEU member, you will remain an NSGEU member, no matter what sector you fall under.

I’ve been moved out of Health Care and into Support Services. Which contract will I be covered by?

All workers will be covered by their current collective agreement until a new contract can be negotiated for your bargaining unit.

So, if you are a Unit Aide who has been moved to the Support Services, for example, your current contract provisions remain in place until a new contract is negotiated for the Support Services Bargaining Unit. Given that the government also passed a law requiring complex essential services negotiations, it is unlikely negotiations will begin until later this year.

SENIORITY & MOBILITY

How will seniority work?

There will be one province-wide seniority list for the entire Provincial Health Authority and one for the IWK. Current lists will be merged with all unions by bargaining unit.

What happens if I want to apply for another job at a different facility that is covered by another union’s contract?

Beginning April 1st, 2015 and until new collective agreements are negotiated in each bargaining unit, if a member from any union were to apply for a job at a facility that falls under another union’s geographic region tomorrow, that person can’t use their seniority to get the position. But if they are the successful applicant, their seniority will go with them.

However, if you were to successfully apply for a new job in the future, after new contracts are negotiated for each bargaining unit, you will be able to apply for a job at any facility in the new provincial health authority and your seniority will carry with you. The IWK will have a separate seniority list.

I work at Capital Health, but I also pick up casual shifts at a facility in another district health authority. Will I still be able to pick up shifts after April 1st? Since all facilities (except the IWK) will then be one employer, does this mean I’ll be paid overtime?

We are encouraging all members who pick up casual shifts at another facility or in another classification to carry on as usual. The unions will discuss this matter with the new provincial health authority as soon as possible.

SERVICING & REPRESENTATION

What will happen with the Licensed Practical Nurses’ reclassification efforts?

Our efforts for the LPN reclassification are still ongoing, and we plan to pursue them under the Health Council structure. Since the grievance and classification review started under the current contract, this process can proceed. We expect the other unions will be keen for us to continue this work, as well, as all LPNs in the province will benefit if we are successful.

What about ongoing grievances?

Those will also carry on, undisturbed.

However, all the unions must discuss forwarding grievances which are going to arbitration if the matter affects the rights of the other unions.

Right now, there are a few slight wage discrepancies between the same classifications in different district health authorities. How will this be dealt with?

As of April 1st, all wages and provisions of your current contract will stay in place until a new contract is negotiated. Any wage discrepancies will be addressed at the bargaining table. It has always been the NSGEU’s goal to “level up” during bargaining in these types of situations.

Which union will I call if I have an issue at work, and need to file a grievance, etc…?

If you currently belong to the NSGEU, you will call us! The key component to the Health Council structure is that all members get to stay with their current union.

THE VOTE

What am I being asked to vote on?

We are asking affected members to vote in support of Health Councils. We are holding an electronic/telephone vote which started Wednesday, March 25th, and will run until Wednesday, April 1st at 5 p.m.

The ballot will read: “Are you in favour of the NSGEU negotiating as part of a Council of Unions for collective bargaining with the Provincial Health Authority and the IWK Health Centre?”

I belong to both the NSGEU and another one of the involved unions. Should I vote more than once?

Yes. If you are a member of more than one of the involved unions, you are eligible to cast a ballot with each union.

How can I vote?

If we have an email address on file for you, you should receive an email with voting instructions and a PIN code. If we do not have your email address on file, a package will be mailed to you with voting instructions and a PIN code. The PIN code ensures the voting process is secure. You will have the option to vote online or over the phone.

If you have not already received an email or package by mail with voting instructions and a PIN, please call our voting help desk between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, or 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call 902-424-4063 (toll-free 1-877-556-7438).

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