Acute Healthcare Bargaining Update
To: All NSGEU Members in Locals: 100, 101, 104, 119, 122, 124, 189, 190, 191, 193, 195, 423, 1246
Just before Christmas, the Provincial Liberal Government passed Bill 148. This legislation will freeze retirement allowances for all public sector workers, including all unionized healthcare workers at the IWK and the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), effective April 1, 2015, and will severely limit any wage increases over a four-year period.
The legislation restricts wage increases to 0% effective November 1, 2014; 0% effective November 1, 2015; 1% effective November 1, 2016; 1% on November 1, 2017; and 0.5% in April of 2018. For more information on this legislation and a more detailed update on bargaining and essential services for NSGEU health care locals, please click here.
The Liberal government passed Bill 148 in December but has not announced when it will be put it into effect. Should any public sector bargaining unit in the province attempt to go to arbitration, the Liberals will trigger the legislation at a minimum for that bargaining unit and could also enact it for all other public sector bargaining units, including those at the NSHA and IWK.
This legislation, along with previous legislation on essential services (Bill 37, passed in April of 2014) and the reorganization of health care (Bill 1 passed in October of 2014), has negatively impacted the rights of health care workers to freely bargain fair collective agreements.
Bill 37 – Essential Services
Bill 37 required Unions in the health care sector to ensure significant numbers of employees remain at work in the event of a strike. No strike can take place until an essential services agreement is reached.
The agreements are made increasingly complex as a result of the creation of the Council of Unions (see below) resulting from Bill 1. That is because Bill 1 requires that all unions now bargain together in each of the four health care bargaining units: Healthcare, Nursing, Administrative Professionals, and Support Services. So instead of requiring essential services agreements for a bargaining unit at the former Capital Health, these agreements must be reached province-wide. For example, in order for an essential services agreement to be reached for the Healthcare Bargaining Unit, the staffing levels for every hospital and Healthcare Bargaining Unit employee across the province must be finalized. The same applies for the other three bargaining units.
This is an enormous and complex task. The four affected unions, NSGEU, CUPE, UNIFOR and NSNU began essential services negotiations with the NSHA and the IWK in November of 2015. We have had several meetings since then but remain a long way from concluding a final agreement.
The unions’ view is that it must have a substantially completed essential services agreement in order to have the threat of a strike and create leverage at the bargaining table. We will continue to update you as essential services negotiations progress.
Bill 1 – The Dorsey Hearings
As mentioned, in October of 2014, the Provincial Liberal Government passed legislation which attempted to designate what union would represent which bargaining unit. This legislation tried to transfer thousands of NSGEU members to different unions and vice-versa. Fortunately, arbitrator James Dorsey understood the importance of allowing health care workers in Nova Scotia to select their own union representation. As a result of his decisions, the Liberal Government backed down and agreed to the creation of four councils of unions. These four councils are charged with bargaining collective agreements in each of the four acute care bargaining units. (Administrative Professionals, Support Services, Nursing and Healthcare)
Bill 1 also collapsed the former district health authorities in the Province into a single provincial health authority and the IWK. It then required that each bargaining unit have a single collective agreement for the IWK and the NSHA. That is all Administrative Professional employees, for example, would have to operate under a collective agreement at both the Nova Scotia Provincial Health Authority and the IWK. This legislation creates another enormous task as there are almost fifty (50) collective agreements in the acute care sector in Nova Scotia. Different unions have operated different vacation scheduling rules as well as different sick leave plans, different benefits plans, different retiree benefit plans, different job security provisions and so on.
Negotiators from each of the unions have worked since the Spring of 2015 to compare the provisions of the various agreements and develop proposals for bargaining. In addition, in early January, 2016, the NSGEU surveyed all of its health care members to assist with preparation of proposals for bargaining.
Elected bargaining committee members from all four locals at NSGEU met several times to review and discuss potential proposals. The Healthcare Council has been designated by the four unions as the lead bargaining table for this next round of negotiations. On February 3 and 4th, bargaining committee members and negotiators for the Healthcare Council met to continue this work. The unions have booked several more meetings in late February and early March.
The Coming Months
If it is enacted, Bill 148 will freeze wages for two years and give very limited wage increases over the following two years, and it will effectively freeze retirement allowances for health care workers retroactive to April 1, 2015. But until the legislation is enacted for their bargaining unit, all public sector workers will continue to accrue retirement allowances and those who retire, prior to an enactment of the Bill, will receive a retirement allowance accrued even after April 1, 2015.
In addition, NSGEU, CUPE, UNIFOR, and NSNU acute care members continue to operate under the various benefits of each of their collective agreements until a new collective agreement is negotiated. So NSGEU members will continue in their existing sick leave plans, will continue to remain in their existing benefits and retiree benefits plans, will continue to have vacation scheduled in accordance to their existing rules, and so on.
Given the circumstances created by these three pieces of Liberal legislation, it will take some time yet before bargaining is concluded in acute care.
The NSGEU will continue to keep you updated as essential services negotiations and preparation of bargaining proposals progresses. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact a member of your bargaining committee or the NSGEU Labour Resource Center.
Administrative Professionals Bargaining Committee:
Michelle Dockrill, Local 104 firstname.lastname@example.org
Debra Hartnett, Local 1246 email@example.com
Heather Tucker, Local 1246 firstname.lastname@example.org
Tammy Young, Local 1246 email@example.com
Bill Zebedee, Local 1246 firstname.lastname@example.org
Health Care Bargaining Committee:
Patrick Daigle, Local 100 email@example.com
Monika Harvey, Local 193 firstname.lastname@example.org
Allan Lapierre, Local 100 email@example.com
Peter Perry, Local firstname.lastname@example.org
Cindy Smith-MacDonald, Local 100 email@example.com
Nursing Bargaining Committee:
Denise Meade Jones, Local 101 firstname.lastname@example.org
Rochelle Ryan, Local 101 email@example.com
Kerri Webster-McIsaac, Local 101 firstname.lastname@example.org
Support Services Bargaining Committee:
Darryl Leroux, Local 124 email@example.com
Raymond Theriault, Local 119 firstname.lastname@example.org
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