Health Care Bargaining Update, August 8, 2018

Following five days of mediation, (July 30-August 3) Mediator / Arbitrator William Kaplan issued an award today (click here to view and download the full award), Wednesday August 8, 2018, which finally establishes a collective agreement for more than 6,000 employees in the Health Care Bargaining Unit at the NSHA and the IWK.

The process leading to this arbitration award began in October of 2016 when the Council of Health Care Unions began negotiations on a province-wide collective agreement. The Council, made up of bargaining committee members from NSGEU, CUPE and Unifor, were required by legislation to negotiate 16 collective agreements down to one each for the IWK and NSHA.

The Council held more than 50 negotiating sessions with employer representatives over almost two years. The parties had agreed in May of 2018 that any outstanding issues would be sent to Mr. Kaplan to decide.

Today Mr. Kaplan issued his award completing the process and establishing new collective agreements for Health Care. The Support Services, Administrative Professional and Nursing Bargaining units will now begin their bargaining. Mr. Kaplan will return in the Fall to decide any outstanding issues at those tables.

Please note the following very important information:

  1. All monetary improvements in this new collective agreement will become effective the date of the award except for those where the agreement specifies a different date. For example, some wage increases are retroactive to 2015 and some will not take place until some point in the future.
  2. All other provisions including all language changes will not take effect until October 8, 2018, unless otherwise specified in the award. This is necessary to allow members and the Employers to prepare for the changes required. During this time, the transitional collective agreements that members have operated under since 2011, will remain in effect.
  3. Mr. Kaplan has not yet awarded rates for shift and weekend premiums. The Employer is proposing no increases in premiums while the Council has proposed an increase of $1.15 an hour for each premium. Mr. Kaplan has indicated he will issue this award on August 15.

Highlights of key improvements (full list at the bottom)

  • Keep existing sick leave plans – including public health, addictions, and continuing care
  • Pay out of retirement allowances
  • Maintained existing NSGEU Local 42 language
  • Improved job security and reassignment provisions
  • Maintained modified work week
  • Those that take jobs from NSHA to IWK and vis versa will take their seniority with them
  • Reduced probationary period
  • Creation of Holiday and Overtime Banks and new language to make vacation carryover easier
  • Province-wide job postings for all NSHA employees
  • Increased standby pay
  • Starting 2019 members will be allowed two vacation picks a year, rather than one
  • Increase in leave for birth of a child or adoption from 7.5 hours to 15
  • Following probationary period members are eligible for maternity/paternity/adoption leave top up, previously not eligible for a year

A Long and Historic Round of Bargaining

This round of bargaining for the Health Care Bargaining Unit was the most unique in Nova Scotia history.

Government legislation restricted wage increases and froze and ended retirement allowances. Other government legislation created two employers, the NSHA and the IWK, and required CUPE, NSGEU and Unifor to negotiate a single province-wide agreement for all their members.

And the government introduced legislation requiring that health care workers negotiate very complex province-wide essential services plans that ensured large numbers of members remain at work in the event of a strike.

In the face of all this, your bargaining committee began negotiations in the fall of 2016. For two years the employers made every effort to use their legislated upper hand to attempt to claw back rights and benefits from NSGEU members.

Your committee remained steadfast in their refusal to concede benefits that members had fought for and gained over the previous 40 years.

In the spring of 2018, your employers tabled proposals to take away even more rights and benefits. They proposed things such as eliminating the Short Term Illness plan, the right for the employers to unilaterally change benefits without union approval and the right to transfer employees anywhere in the province, temporarily or even permanently.

The Council of Health Care Unions then undertook a strategy to ratchet up the pressure on the provincial government and the employers in attempt to level the playing field in bargaining.

This strategy required the unwavering support of health care workers in three unions across the province. In April, the Council announced it was conducting the first ever province-wide strike vote in health care. The memberships responded with overwhelming support.

On May 1, members voted 93 per cent in favour of strike action. That vote was the key turning point.

Shortly after that, the Council referred disputes under the IWK Essential Services agreement to the Labour Board for resolution. Outstanding work by IWK members led to a settlement that meant that only 35 per cent of IWK members would remain at work in the event of a strike.

The very real possibility of an effective strike at the IWK and the impending possibility of a strike at the NSHA caused the province to propose mediation / arbitration with William Kaplan as a means to settling all four health care collective agreements at the NSHA and the IWK. The mediation / arbitration agreement also established the wages for the new collective agreement, froze the retirement allowance pending a court challenge by the Unions, provided an option for payout of existing retirement allowance accruals and ensured the protection of existing sick and retiree benefit agreements for all members.

The mediation/arbitration proposal was ratified by 92 per cent of members in all four bargaining units across the all four unions (NSGEU, NSNU, CUPE and Unifor).

The parties re-entered negotiations following the ratification and the Council began to make real and important progress on your behalf.

Then on July 27, Mr. Kaplan began the mediation / arbitration. During this time, Mr. Kaplan decided upon the remaining outstanding issues. His award, which can be found here (link) established the final collective agreements for all health care bargaining unit workers at the NSHA and the IWK.

The Council used the former NSGEU Local 42 collective agreement as its base agreement for the purposes of the negotiations. As a result, we were able to achieve keeping almost all existing Local 42 language. This language largely mirrored NSGEU language in Public Health, Addictions and Continuing Care collective agreements and the former Local 22 agreement at the IWK.

The mediation/arbitration agreements established the 6 year term (with just over two years left), the payout option for accrued retirement allowances, the protection of the status quo both for existing sick leave plans and cost sharing for retiree benefits and the wage increases as follows:

  • 1% on November 1, 2016
  • 1.5% on November 1, 2017
  • 0.5% on October 31, 2018
  • 1.5% on November 1, 2018
  • 0.5% on October 31, 2019
  • 1.5% on November 1, 2019
  • 0.5% on October 31, 2020

Important: Increases for members who work in Public Health, Addictions Services and Continuing Care in the Western, Eastern and Northern Zones are in effect on March 31 of each year. This is based on the expiry date of their current Collective Agreement.

In addition to the former NSGEU Local 42 language, the Council was able to persuade Mr. Kaplan to award a number of language and benefit improvements. Many of these amount to significant gains for NSGEU members.

These improvements are as follows:

  1. New language for both employers that prohibits the employers from changing health, dental and life benefits without the agreement of the unions.
  2. Protects STI plans for Central Zone employees and newly hired central zone employees
  3. Service accrual moves to date of hire rather than requiring 10 days paid work in a month. This is a significant benefit that will allow members to accrue service time more quickly and at times when they do not work ten days in a month
  4. Prior service for the IWK. This is an important improvement that former CDHA and Public Health Addictions and Continuing Care members had in the past. This will allow IWK members who left their employment with the IWK and who return after the date of the Kaplan award, to recoup the service they had when they left.
  5. NSHA members who leave to take a job at the IWK and IWK members who leave to take a job at the NSHA will be able to take their service with them
  6. NSHA members who leave to take a job at the IWK and IWK members who leave to take a job at the NSHA can now take their seniority with them. However, members of one employer cannot use their seniority to get jobs at another.
  7. Members may transfer casual seniority to permanent seniority if they change positions. Previously, this required employees to have been in a series of assignments prior to the transfer to a permanent job in order to convert.
  8. Members may convert permanent seniority to casual seniority.
  9. Language outlining the employer, union and employee obligations around accommodations.
  10. Computer access – the union is allowed to send 3 electronic notices per month to members using the employer’s database. Previously, we had no such right.
  11. The Union now has 10 minutes to acquaint new employees to the union upon hire.
  12. The Employers must give new employees access to a link to an electronic package prepared by the Union for new employees.
  13. The Employers must give the Union a quarterly update of Bargaining Unit member details including name, address, telephone number, hire date, classification, employment status and pay rate of bargaining unit members.
  14. All new bargaining unit hires become and remain members of the union.
  15. The probationary period at the NSHA was reduced from 12 – 9 months for new permanent hires.
  16. Province-wide job posting for all NSHA employees. NSHA members can use their seniority to compete for positions around the province within the health care bargaining unit.
  17. Only bargaining unit employees may use their seniority to get jobs within the bargaining unit, but other bargaining unit members may bring their seniority if successful. This applies at both the NSHA and the IWK.
  18. New language on appointments that allows existing employees to accept a new post on a training basis if they do not meet all the criteria.
  19. New language requiring that any employees in the bargaining unit taking a new position shall be awarded those positions as soon as is reasonably possible
  20. New language establishing a 495-hour trial period for members taking on a new position. This trial period allows the member to choose to return to their former position within 495 hours.
  21. If successful in a job competition, members get pay increase no later than 46 days. It had been 61 days.
  22.  If the employee agrees, the employer may collect and remit membership dues to professional organizations.
  23. Members are now given 3 days to attend union annual meetings. It was two.
  24. The Union is now allowed to have up to eight members off the job with pay, rather than five, to attend Bargaining Unit Workshops.
  25. The agreement was changed to allow for 10 negotiation team members in total. The previous agreement allowed for five. This addresses the creation of the Council and the requirement for representatives from each union.
  26. New language allowing for 10 members of the bargaining unit to participate in Essential Services negotiations. These members will have their time spent in direct negotiations paid for by the Employer.
  27. All addictions employees have their hours of work increase from 70-75. There are 86 people affected.
  28. Employees cannot be required to work more than 16 hours in 24-hour period
  29. Standby pay will increase from $13.50 to $16.21.
  30. Standby pay on a holiday increases from $27.00 to $32.40.
  31. Employees cannot be struck from casual list if they decline shifts of 3 hours or less
  32. There is new language to make standby rules clear. That is, stand by will not be forfeited in the event of callback. Standby must be divided equitably among part-timers first.
  33. There is an improvement in the transportation allowance. People called back to work get mileage or $10.00 each way, whichever is greater
  34. There are a number of improvements to vacation. Starting in 2019, members will be allowed two vacation picks in a year rather than one. The first pick covers first six months of the year plus prime time in the summer and vacations in December and March break. The second pick covers the rest of the year.
  35. New language that makes it easier to carryover vacation
  36. New language that reimburses people for deposits lost when vacation is cancelled before the vacation begins.
  37. New language creating a holiday bank. It allows people to carry an unlimited bank of holiday time and the employer may pay that bank down to 22.5 hours each quarter. Previously it was paid out if not used within two months of the month it was earned.
  38. New language that ensures members will alternate Christmas and New Year’s off every year.
  39. New language that eliminates the requirement for members to work for a year in order to access maternity leave/paternity leave / adoption leave.
  40. New language that gives maternity leave / paternity leave / adoption leave top up to employees who have passed their probationary period. Previously, they were not eligible in their first year of employment.
  41. Employees who transfer from the IWK to the NSHA or from the NSHA to the IWK, will be eligible for paternity / maternity and adoption leave and top up immediately provided they had completed a probationary period with their previous employer.
  42. Employees may now defer bereavement leave for interment.
  43. Employees will now be granted two days travel without pay to attend funeral of aunt or uncle.
  44. Employees will now have three days paid bereavement leave in the event of the death of their brother or sister-in-law.
  45. If an employee is on holiday time or using time in lieu at time of bereavement the employee shall be granted bereavement leave.
  46. Court leave will now be expanded to include time spent in jury selection.
  47. Leave for birth of a child will increase from 1 day to 15 hours
  48. Increases leave for adoption of child from 1 day to 15 hours
  49. Expands the list of people who an employee may receive compassionate care leave for beyond those contained in the legislation.
  50. New language on leave for parent of a critically ill child to match legislation.
  51. Creation of a committee to manage transfer to a single benefits plan. That committee has two-years to negotiate the transfer. Benefits will stay the same during that time.
  52. New language for both employers that prohibits the employers from changing health, dental and life benefits without the agreement of the unions. NSGEU local 42 members previously had this right.
  53. Protects STI plans for Central Zone employees and newly hired central zone employees
  54. Protects STI plans for former PHACC employees and for new hires in PHACC positions including 18 general illness days
  55. Protects all general leave provisions related to sick leave for Central Zone employees.
  56. Protects all general leave provisions related to sick leave for all former PHACC employees and new hires including 2 days emergency and 7 days family leave
  57. Includes new MOAs which will ensure employees going from a work area with STI to work area with accumulated sick leave and vice versa will receive recognition for sick banks based on years worked and usage of sick time
  58. Includes new MOA that allows Public Health Addictions and Continuing Care employees to transfer from their STI plan to Central STI plans with recognition of an appropriate top up bank. New language that concludes a similar MOA for transferring from Central to Public Health Addictions and Continuing Care STI plans.
  59. An employee who is asked to an investigative meeting is now entitled to be accompanied by a Union representation.
  60. An employee subject to written discipline shall have it removed from their file in 2 years rather than 4 years.
  61. Grievances will be heard at Step III by the Senior Director or Executive Director rather than VP – this is an administrative change
  62. Creates a province-wide Health Care Bargaining Unit Labour Management Committee for the NSHA involving all 3 health care unions. That committee will deal with province-wide labour management issues, with members’ attendance paid by the employer.
  63. Introduces the option for payout of retirement allowances. Province passed legislation ending the accrual of the retirement allowance after March 31, 2015. The Unions continue their court challenge of the legislation.
  64. Protects existing retirement benefits and cost share for all current and future employees
  65. Ensures all new hires at Public Health Addictions and Continuing Care continue to join PSSP pension plan.
  66. Improves re-assignment language for former Local 42 Members and extends that language to Public Health Addictions Continuing Care and IWK employees.
  67. Restricts reassignment geography at NSHA to 50 and 75 km driving distance which is significantly less than had been possible at the former CDHA and at PHACC
  68. Travel time for reassignment must be within the workday unless employees opt to take it as OT.
  69. Employees may choose to accept reassignment outside of their geographic area but cannot be required to accept such a reassignment.
  70. An employee who accepts a reassignment outside their reassignment area must be provided details on length of assignment and expenses paid in consultation with their Union.
  71. Expands the list of expenses for parking and travel for reassignment to all expenses
  72. Reduces the Probationary period for new casual employees at the NSHA.
  73. Casuals will receive a pay increment increase after 1250 hours instead of 1950 hours at the IWK and NSHA.
  74. Casual employees cannot be struck from WASCL for refusing shifts of 3 hours or less
  75. Shortens long assignments from 9 months to 6 months.
  76. Short assignments will run from ten days to six months rather than ten days to nine months.
  77. If a relief shift is canceled with less than 3 hours’ notice then the employee must be provided work for the shift rather than just 3 hour pay
  78. Creates a joint job evaluation committee at the NSHA involving three unions to manage reclassifications, the previous committee had just NSGEU members.
  79. Creates a joint steering committee at the NSHA involving 3 unions to manage reclassifications, the previous committee involved just the NSGEU.
  80. Where the employer does not respond to a reclassification at the NSHA in 60 days, that reclassification will now be automatically forwarded to the joint job evaluation committee.
  81. Retains IWK job classification and reclassification language.
  82. Creates a 75 -hour overtime bank for all members. Instead of having overtime paid out at the end of the second calendar month in which it was earned, members may carry a bank that the employer may pay down to 75 hours every quarter.
  83. Members will now have three paid days off with the death of a brother-in-law or sister-in-law. Previously, we had one day.
  84. The agreement includes important improvements in job security at the NSHA made necessary by the creation of a province-wide employer. The job security language now:
    1. Defines the work site for employees
    2. Defines a geographic distance of 50 kilometers inside metro and 60 kilometers outside metro as a means of restricting where a redundant employee may be required to accept a vacancy or displace.
    3. Requires the NSHA to ensure a redundant employee has the opportunity to be placed in a vacancy or displace into a position that has the same FTE status.
    4. Allows redundant employees to decline a placement outside their geographic location and accept other options including TSP or displacement.
    5. Expands recall rights for those on the recall list from 12 to 15 months.
    6. Provides new rights to employees whose position has been relocated. This includes the right to follow their position and receive up to $4,000 in expenses. Or, members may choose to stay in their current location and go through the job security provisions of the collective agreement.
  1. Amends Long, Short and Relief assignment article to provide extra shifts on an equitable basis to part-time and then casual employees.
  1. Ensures employees who choose to take pay for overtime worked receive that pay within two pay periods.
  1. Introduces a new telephone consult Article that allows the NSHA and IWK to consult with on-call employees without incurring four-hours minimum pay. Kaplan awarded this change at the Employers’ request.  The Council opposed this change.
  1. Protects the car allowance and parking expense provisions for Public Health Addictions and Continuing Care members.
  1. Increases in-charge pay from 60 to 70 cents an hour.
  2. Ensures Team Leaders at the IWK receive a six percent pay increase rather than a team lead stipend. This pay is now subject to economic increases and pensionable.
  1. Provides part-time employees who are part of the accumulated sick leave plan and who work relief or extra shifts to receive 11 per cent in extra pay in lieu of earning extra vacation time. These members will continue to accumulate sick leave credits for these extra shifts.

NOTE: Where language in this document and the Collective Agreement conflicts, the language in the Collective Agreement prevails.

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