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Media Advisory: NSGEU Calls on Government to Let Workers Vote

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Media Advisory: NSGEU Calls on Government to Let Workers Vote

The Liberal government’s legislation attacking health care workers will affect their benefits and working conditions, and will only make health care shortages worse.

Thursday, September 29th will go down in history as a sad day for Nova Scotia and its workers.

Today, the government will table legislation that strips health care workers of their right to vote for union representation of their choice. To make matters worse, those workers who are forced into a union of a mediator/arbitrator’s choice will also be forced to accept a different collective agreement.

Government’s claims that this legislation will have no impact on workers’ wages and health benefits is wrong: health care workers will absolutely be forced to accept collective agreements which include inferior benefits, such as sick leave, job security provisions, and medical/dental benefits. And although health care workers at the IWK will have a separate employer, hundreds of workers there are also being swept up in this legislation and forced into other unions.

“It is shameful that this government feels it is acceptable to deny workers their democratic right to vote,” said NSGEU President Joan Jessome, “We are already hearing from many health care workers who plan to retire or leave the province as a direct result of this government’s actions.”

Normally, Canadian labour law allows unionized workers who find themselves with a new employer and in a new bargaining unit the opportunity to vote on which union they will join. That is what happened in Alberta in 2008, and before that, in other provinces from coast to coast. In other instances, such as British Columbia’s health care amalgamation in 2001, unions formed bargaining associations to negotiate at common tables. NSGEU and the other health care unions brought a similar option forward to this government.

But the Liberal government chose to reject both run-off votes and bargaining associations. On September 26, Health Minister Leo Glavine told reporters that government would appoint a mediator to sort out who belongs to which union.

“The Premier has made it clear that there are four bargaining groups (nurses, health professionals, administrative professionals, and support staff),” said Jessome. “And he made it clear that the arbitrator will be directed to ensure there is one union per employee group.”

Though this government claims that a mediator will work with unions and employers to determine which union will represent each of the four bargaining units, and other issues such as respecting seniority, union leaders cannot simply swap members.

“But our members aren’t horses, and I’m not trading them. At the very minimum, they have to get a vote,” said Jessome.

National Labour leaders are stunned by the move: “No other government, anywhere in Canada, of any political stripe, has ever resorted to such undemocratic measures,” said NUPGE National Secretary-Treasurer Larry Brown, who is in Halifax working with NSGEU leadership.

“It’s fundamental to our whole system that employees have to be given the choice of which union they want to represent them. To deny people that right is totally unacceptable.”

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The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union represents over 30,000 women and men who provide quality public services Nova Scotians count on every day.

For more information or to arrange an interview with NSGEU President, Joan Jessome, please contact:

Holly Fraughton, NSGEU Communications Officer

424.4063 (office)

471.1781 (cell)

hfraughton@nsgeu.ca

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