The Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions, NSHA, and IWK just completed six days of conciliation in an effort to conclude a new collective agreement for the Health Care bargaining unit. The parties have agreed to another 11 days of bargaining over the course of the next few months.
Bargaining in January and February produced some steady progress. But the Employers also tabled some significant takeaways.
The Employers made a brand new proposal that would allow them to transfer employees anywhere they wished in the province. The Employers argued that these staff transfers could be temporary or permanent.
Second, after more than a year of bargaining, the Employers tabled their sick leave proposal. The Employers proposed placing all members of the bargaining unit into an Accumulated Sick Leave plan. This would mean taking the Short Term Illness sick leave plan away from those NSGEU members who currently have it. The Council of Unions has proposed moving all bargaining unit members into the Short Term Illness plan.
This claw back of existing benefits directly contradicts Premier Stephen MacNeil’s promise that health care workers would not lose benefits as a result of amalgamation.
These two proposals come on the heels of provincial government legislation freezing wages for two years and restricting them for two years after that. The effect is that most health care classifications in Nova Scotia are now among the lowest paid in the country. The legislation also froze your retirement allowances effective April 1, 2015.
In addition, the Employers had already tabled a number of damaging proposals including one which would give them unilateral control of your dental and health benefits. The Council of Unions has proposed language from the existing NSGEU Local 42 collective agreement which allows the Unions to prevent the Employer from making unilateral changes to your dental and health benefits.
These continue to be a complex set of negotiations that require bringing together collective agreements from all four unions (NSGEU, CUPE, Unifor and NSNU) in the acute care and community care sectors.
So far, the parties have held more than 30 bargaining dates. Bargaining will continue on the following dates; February 26, 27, March 19, 20, 21, April 10, 11,12, May 2, 3, 4. Other dates may be booked during these four months if required.
At this stage, 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.
In addition, since both the Council of Unions and the Employers based all their proposals on the NSGEU local 42 agreement, most of the outstanding articles have large sections where both parties tabled the same language. As a result, the Council estimates that about 70 per cent of the agreement for IWK and NASHA are now tentatively agreed. However, the most difficult and contentious issues such as benefits, wages, job security, retirement allowance, job posting, hours of work, sick leave, re-assignment and more remain outstanding.
This remains a long and challenging process but the Council of Health Care Unions is working well together to make sure progress continues on your behalf.
Essential Services Update
In the meantime, the Council of Health Care Unions continues to work toward completing an essential services agreement with the IWK and NSHA. This agreement is being negotiated for the first time and was required by another Liberal Government piece of legislation, Bill 37. The legislation requires that a high number of people to remain at work in the event of a strike, but leaves it to the parties to determine the exact numbers.
The essential services agreement covers all 6,500 health care bargaining unit member across the province, making it a very complex task. The Liberal legislation prohibits the health care unions from conducting a strike until an essential services agreement is reached. This, of course, has limited the Council’s leverage at the bargaining table as it attempts to negotiate new collective agreements. Once the essential services negotiations are complete, the Council expects to make more progress in bargaining new collective agreements.
The Employers’ essential services negotiators walked away from the table in the summer and had refused to come back. The Employers have now said they will return to the table on March 6 to continue discussions. The Unions have now presented the Employers with their complete essential services plans for both the NSHA and the IWK. The parties will discuss those plans on March 6.
The Council of Health Care Unions
The Council of Health Care Unions bargaining committee is made up of six members from NSGEU, three from CUPE and one from Unifor. The NSNU is also part of the Health Care Council. Health Care Bargaining Council is the lead table in this round of health care negotiations. The committees representing administrative professionals, support and nursing are preparing to start their bargaining once an agreement is reached in health care.
We did have two changes in the NSGEU membership of the bargaining committee in the last month. Monika Harvey will be replaced by Uta Berthold-Brush and Patrick Daigle is being replaced by Adam Burgess. These changes were made necessary with Monika and Patrick accepted new position outside of the bargaining unit. The Committee thanks them for all their assistance the past two years. Allan Lapierre agreed to replace Patrick Daigle as bargaining co-chair for the Council of Health Care Unions.
While Health Care bargaining continues our members in the Civil Service, with the assistance of an arbitrator, have a new collective agreement in place. This agreement applies only to members covered under the Civil Service Master Agreement.
Nursing, Administrative Professional and Support Services
Health Care Bargaining Council is the lead table in this round of health care negotiations.
The committees representing administrative professionals, support and nursing would preparing to start their bargaining once an agreement is reached, or at least substantially completed in health care.
The Employers have met with the Council of Unions to push for dates to commence bargaining with the Nursing Bargaining Unit. The Council of Unions explained all the reasons this would not make sense for either party until the Health Care table has concluded its negotiations. Those discussions have been met with the Employers informing the Council that if dates are not set, they will be “compelled” to take the matter to the Labour Board.
The Council has agreed to begin Essential Services work in the Nursing Bargaining unit in the coming months and the possibility of an exchange of proposals as soon as the late spring with hopes that healthcare will have made significant progress at that point.
The committees representing Administrative Professionals and Support Services may be required to begin their preparations for bargaining soon, as well.
For more information contact a member of the Health Care Bargaining Committee:
Shawn Fuller, Chief Negotiator