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Health Care Strike Vote-Message from NSGEU President Jason MacLean

After more than a year, and nearly 40 bargaining and conciliation dates, we still do not have a new collective agreement for our health care members. What has become even more frustrating is that since January the bargaining committee has witnessed a serious slow down in process from the employers. In fact, the employers have tabled proposals clawing back significant rights and benefits.

This booklet was prepared to answer your questions and provide you with the dates and times of the many town halls that will take place, both in person and by phone in the coming weeks.

A telephone town hall will take place tomorrow, April 5 at 7:30 p.m. Please listen in or ask a question. If someone you know is a member, but not receiving these emails, please forward it to them and remind them to call the NSGEU office and make sure we have their updated contact information.

Over the past year I have had the opportunity to meet many of you and I have heard you tell me how long and frustrating the bargaining process has become.

I encourage every one to attend a town hall, get engaged, share information, have conversations and turn out to vote. This is your chance to cast a vote and have your voice heard. This is the first time a province-wide strike vote for health care workers has ever taken place. You all know that health care is in crisis, and we want a fair collective agreement.

The government needs to stop attacking health care workers and instead address the crisis in health care. It has become clear that the NSHA and IWK are taking advantage of the restructuring in health care and will do everything they can to take away as many of your benefits and rights gained over decades of collective bargaining.

Your bargaining committee is asking that you give us a strike vote to protect these hard-earned benefits and to send a message to the employers and Stephen McNeil that you want these negotiations taken seriously.

We believe a strong strike vote is the only way to conclude a fair collective agreement on your behalf.

In solidarity,

Jason MacLean

President, NSGEU

One Response to Health Care Strike Vote-Message from NSGEU President Jason MacLean

  1. Kevin Corkill April 5, 2018 at 10:28 am #

    An article I wrote on the struggle:

    Nova Scotia Public Sector Workers Fight for Their Rights

    Conditions in the hospitals across the province are deteriorating. Problems include the closure of emergency departments and extreme wait times for health care. The adverse conditions are compounded with the refusal of the provincial government, the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the IWK Health Centre to bargain with the collectives of workers and reach an arrangement on terms and conditions of employment acceptable to health care workers. The situation has prompted the Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions to announce the first ever province-wide Health Care Bargaining Unit strike vote.

    The Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions is one of four councils the government created unilaterally through the Health Authorities Act in April 2015. The councils comprise a total of 24,361 health care workers organized in different unions with each of the four councils having different leads, deputy lead negotiators and memberships.[1]

    The places and date of the strike vote will be released in the coming days. The four unions of the four Councils will conduct their own votes and consultations with membership.

    The resistance of Nova Scotia workers to the dictate of the McNeil Liberals has developed significantly. Conditions of work and the refusal of the employer to negotiate are key factors in arousing the resistance. Those who do the work do not have any authoritative say or control over the decisions that affect their working conditions, which are also the conditions of health care of Nova Scotians.

    Jason MacLean, President of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), explains why calling a strike vote is an important step in collective bargaining with the province at this time: “You can’t just hold people out like that and have [Premier] Stephen McNeil bragging that they have this big windfall of money when you have a crisis in health care. And you have the people working within the crisis in health care and trying to keep it afloat, but you’re not respecting them by giving them a deal at the table.”

    The conditions in both the education system and the health care system are often described as in crisis, which the reality shows is not an exaggeration. The Nova Scotia teachers are continuing their resistance to the McNeil government’s use of police powers to impose a contract as well as major reforms without any say or input from those who do the work. Teachers give detailed daily reports of the continuing crises at their institutions as they struggle to educate the youth without the required provincial investments.

    So too, health care workers issue countless reports of conditions of work that expose the government as being in direct contradiction with fulfilling the right of the people to timely quality health care. Stories abound of people languishing in hallways waiting to see a doctor, long lines of ambulances outside the Queen Elizabeth II emergency health centre, people waiting over 10 hours to see a doctor and even some leaving the ER to call 911 to try to have a doctor assist them before the situation becomes fatal. A crisis indeed.

    The President of the NSGEU rightfully calls the situation a crisis in the hospitals, which is also a crisis in the politics of the province reflected in the government’s inability to deal with any of the problems facing the people, including the provision of timely quality health care that belongs to Nova Scotians by right.

    “Front line health care workers are doing the best they can, but this crisis is the responsibility of Stephen McNeil and his continuing denial that a crisis exists is cold comfort for the patients who are left waiting on an ambulance stretcher for more than 10 hours just to be seen by a doctor,” MacLean says.

    The political crisis is caused in part by the neo-liberal aim of the McNeil Liberals to impose their austerity agenda, as dictated by the imperialist rich whom they represent. Power to make decisions that affect the lives of the people of Nova Scotia lies in the hands of a privileged class that has usurped power and use it to serve their aim of expropriating maximum money profit from the new value workers produce. Their aim is in contradiction with the right of Nova Scotians to timely quality health care. In fact, most discussion in the think tanks and media of the rich is centred on how to manipulate social programs and public services in ways that meet their aim to expropriate maximum profit through privatization or other methods.

    The workers’ announcement that they will hold a strike vote is a significant and courageous move. To organize to withdraw their capacity to work shows how serious they are to defend their rights and the rights of all. This comes despite the continuous threats and dictate of the McNeil Liberals to impose contracts on workers, to criminalize their resistance and through police powers negate their right to withdraw their capacity to work. This marks another step in the direction of building resistance to the class privilege that is negating the right of Nova Scotians to have a say in the affairs that affect their lives and to solve the very real and serious problems their society faces.

    While conciliation dates are set for April and May, the Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions is taking a significant step in seizing the initiative with a strike vote and putting the focus on the workers’ demands for terms of employment acceptable to themselves and for solutions to the problems in the health care sector.

    Note
    1. The four councils are:
    The Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions — total membership 6,506
    The Nova Scotia General Employees Union — 3,808 members and is the Lead for this council.
    The Canadian Union of Public Employees — 1,940 members and is the Deputy Lead.
    Unifor — 751 members.
    The Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union — 7 members.

    Nova Scotia Council of Health Administrative Professional Unions — 4,213 total membership
    NSGEU — 2,979 members, Deputy Lead
    CUPE — 1,195 members, Lead
    Unifor — 35 members
    NSNU — 4 members

    The Nova Scotia Council of Health Support Unions — total membership of 4,029
    NSGEU — 1,853 members, Deputy Lead
    CUPE — 1,093 members
    Unifor — 1,082 members, Lead
    NSNU — 1 member

    The Nova Scotia Council of Nursing Unions — total membership of 9,613
    NSNU — 5,149 members, Lead
    NSGEU — 3,507 members, Deputy Lead
    CUPE — 484 members
    Unifor — 473 members

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