Bargaining Update: Province-Wide Nursing Collective Agreement

After many months of difficult negotiations, your bargaining committee members are pleased to announce that they have concluded a new, province-wide Nursing Collective Agreement.
This was a historic round of bargaining that saw all nurses across the province from four different unions bargain together at one table (click here to read more about the history behind this round of bargaining). Council representatives had the monumental task of combining almost two dozen collective agreements into one each for the NSHA and the IWK.
Despite these challenges, NSGEU council representatives did an outstanding job of retaining the key provisions of the former NSGEU collective agreements for Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses and Nurse Practitioners.
The Health Authorities Act led to the creation of the Nursing Bargaining Council of Nova Scotia which was tasked with negotiating agreements for the NSHA and the IWK on behalf of nurses across Nova Scotia.
The number of bargaining committee members on the council was determined by the membership numbers in each union.  NSGEU held seven of the 20 seats. NSNU held 11 seats, CUPE and Unifor had one each.
As a minority union, NSGEU was not able to control every aspect of bargaining. This meant it was not possible for NSGEU members to achieve everything we set out to accomplish.
However, working with the other unions, NSGEU bargaining committee members did an outstanding job in these circumstances.
As a result of the hard work of the committee, the resulting collective agreements will maintain much of our NSGEU language, while still achieving a number of significant improvements. The award comes into effect 60 days from November 30th, except for monetary provisions, which are effective according to the dates outlined in the collective agreement (please note: some changes may take time to be implemented by your employer, but retroactivity will apply).
NSGEU is very proud of the hard work of your representatives on the Council.  That work has resulted in one of the best collective agreements in any setting in this province. We were able to maintain key pieces of your existing NSGEU agreement, while at the same time adding new benefits from the recently settled Health Care agreement, as well as new benefits contained in the former NSNU collective agreements (please see below for highlights of the agreement).
When it comes to the priority areas of Job Security, Vacation Scheduling, Holidays, Leaves, Long and Short Assignments, Service Accrual, Hours of Work, Overtime and Benefits, the Council adopted most of the former NSGEU language. Often we were able to further enhance these Articles. We kept our 48-hour short notice shift change, our half-day holiday at Christmas, and our four weeks of vacation preference in the summer.
In addition, we developed a very strong Zone Labour Management Committee model based on former NSNU language that will allow much greater labour management participation for our members. The new agreement adopts NSNU language on work load management and created a whole new Article specific to Nurse Practitioners which includes overtime.
Your committee matched the significant increases in shift and weekend premiums first achieved at the health care table and achieved 25 per cent increases in standby pay. Furthermore, we created a new article, based on NSNU language, that puts parameters around multi-site and multi-unit postings.
Our Casual nurses will also see improvements: they will get overtime when their shift is extended; if they become permanent, they can get credit for vacation time for their casual work; and rather than 1,950 hour required for an increment, they will only need 1,000 hours.
However, it is important to note that we did not achieve all we were looking for. In particular, we retained status quo for designated unit premiums. Despite your committee’s best efforts, the employers and the government were unwilling to even discuss the issue of extending leadership and practice premiums to all NSGEU nurses. We will work closely with the membership over the next 18 months to determine how to address this issue in the next round of bargaining.
Your committee was also required to change some language around classifications reviews and re-assignment, and agreed as a committee to delete call-in language and go with overtime only in those instances. And as a result of the Kaplan decision in health care, we were required to adopt telephone consults.
Your NSGEU bargaining committee members will hold a telephone town hall soon so we can go over some of the key elements of the agreement with the membership. Your committee also plans to schedule lunch & learn sessions in the new year, as well, to go through your new collective agreement in more detail with you.
NSGEU offers its thanks to the NSGEU bargaining committee members who represented the interests of NSGEU nurses so well at the bargaining table. And the Union also thanks you, the members, for your ongoing patience during this very challenging round of negotiations.
Key Highlights of New Nursing Collective Agreement:
  1. Probation for newly hired nurses is 6 months rather than 12.
  2. Service date is now set at the date of hire
  3. The Union now has 30 minutes to meet with new employees
  4. NSGEU nurses can have time off paid for Annual/ Provincial Meetings.
  5. The employers will now pay for 7 Bargaining Committee Members for NSGEU
  6. Union can post notices on employers’ websites
  7. There is an automatic dues deduction for colleges but the nurse may opt out
  8. Shifts are now capped to a maximum of 16 hours including overtime
  9. A unit wishing to change their scheduling method requires 66% vote in support of the change. It used to be 80%
  10. Employer can’t cancel extra/relief shifts for permanent employees
  11. The scheduling of relief shifts now changes to match healthcare. The process affects the way shifts are handed out and breaks them into two categories; extra shifts are those available before posting and relief shifts are those available after a schedule has been posted.
  12. Written or verbal discipline can be removed after two years. It was four years. Suspensions remain on file for 5 years (previously it had been 4) Need to ask in writing to have it removed
  13. Reassignment by rotation rather than seniority
  14. A 25 % increase in standby
  15. Meal allowance increase
  16. Creation of a new 75-hour overtime bank. The employer may pay the banks down to 75 hours each quarter.
  17. Part timers move on increment scale on anniversary date rather than 1,950 hours
  18. Shift premium increases of 15 cents per hour on the date of the agreement (November 30, 2018), 15 cents effective August 1, 2019 and 20 cents effective October 31, 2020.
  19. Weekend premium increases of 15 cents per hour on the date of the agreement (November 30, 2018), 15 cents effective August 1, 2019 and 20 cents effective October 31, 2020.
  20. New preceptor language
  21. Pregnancy, parental, adoption leave and top up can now begin at first day of hire rather than waiting for one year.
  22. Bereavement leave increased from 1 to 3 days paid for brother or sister-in-law
  23. Bereavement for internment may now be delayed if necessary
  24. Adds jury selection to court leave
  25. Adopts 2 vacation picks in a year rather than one. The first allows members to choose vacation for the first half of the year including primetime in the summer, December vacation and March Break vacation. The second pick allows people to choose vacation in the second half of the year.
  26. There is now language that will make it a bit easier to carryover vacation
  27. Holiday will now be paid by hours worked in the 24-hour holiday period
  28. Creation of a new Holiday bank of 22.5 hours. The employer may pay the banks down to 75 hours each quarter.
  29. New language that allows nurses to alternate Christmas/New Year’s off each year
  30. Job postings will now be province-wide for all those in the nursing bargaining unit
  31. Slightly shorter job posting times
  32. Employer may extend some assignments
  33. There is now a 495-hour trial period for a nurse taking a new job
  34. An unsuccessful internal applicant for a job can seek an explanation
  35. New language allowing for conditional appointment to a new position for a nurse who is in the process of acquiring all necessary qualifications
  36. New language placing some restrictions on multi-unit postings for nurses who accept positions in more than one unit or work site.
  37. Pregnancy, parental and adoption leaves language will reflect the increase to 78 weeks granted under new federal legislation.
  38. Partner birth and adoption leave will increase to 15 hours, it used to be 7.5.
  39. New language providing for detailed workload clinical capacity reports
  40. A new requirement that the employers pay for some alcohol/drug testing if they require it.
  41. Creation of new zone labour management committees across the NSHA and IWK that allow for much greater nurse participation in areas involving their workplaces
  42. Casuals whose shifts are extended will now receive overtime for the extension
  43. Casuals will receive a wage increment at 1000 hours or 12 months, whichever is sooner.
  44. Casuals will now receive double time for Christmas day
  45. Casuals will now own shifts and cannot cancel. Employer can’t cancel with less than 3 hours’ notice.
  46. New language will allow members the ability to temporarily reduce their designation
  47. There is a new Article dedicated to nurse practitioners. It allows for nurse practitioner overtime among other benefits.
  48. Short assignments run from 2-9 months
  49. Part time members at the IWK who take extra or relief shifts will now be paid 11% instead of accruing vacation or holiday time.
  50. IWK members now have accumulated service, which means if they leave the employer and return later, they will get their prior service back.
  51. The nursing council retained the NSGEU job security language with some improvements
    1. A displaced nurse can’t be placed in lower designation
    2. Nurses will now have a menu of options if can’t be placed in geographic region
    3. New relocation language including some costs for those who choose to relocate with their jobs.
    4. $40,000 min for PIO
  52. Developed a method of protecting sick leave banks for those nurses who take jobs in an area with a different sick leave plan.
  53. Established a joint committee to spend a year developing a single employee health and benefits plan; there are currently three at NSHA and IWK.
In addition to the above improvements, your bargaining committee saved many existing NSGEU benefits by ensuring they were negotiated into the new Nursing Agreement. Many are benefits that other unions did not have before. As a result, in many cases the employers attempted to negotiate a reduction or even tried to take away some of these benefits either at the nursing or the healthcare table or both.
These include:
  1. Accumulated service for NSHA members allowing them to access prior service if they leave and come back to the employer
  2. Flexible work week and modified work week for NSHA members
  3. Rounding up of overtime
  4. 3-hour meal allowance
  5. Long/Short Assignments and the work area specific casual lists
  6. Grievance Procedures
  7. Occupational health and safety language
  8. Retained existing Retiree Benefits through the ratification of the mediation arbitration deal by all bargaining units back on May 18, 2018.
  9. Travel expenses
  10. We retain our existing veto on changes to our group life and medical benefits
  11. Pensions
  12. Job Security
  13. Vacation and vacation scheduling except for the addition of two picks for vacations and a defined method of selecting vacations.
  14. Retained each members’ existing sick leave plan through the ratification of the mediation arbitration deal by all bargaining units back on May 18, 2018.
  15. 48-hour short-notice shift change
  16. Overtime when taking required education courses
  17. NSGEU members will still not be required to wear black and white uniforms
Unfortunately, we were not able to retain all existing NSGEU benefits. Language that we lost or had taken away by Arbitrator William Kaplan includes:
  1. Modified Work Week at the IWK
  2. Minimum four hours pay for call-in. This will now be paid at the applicable over time rate
  3. New remote and telephone consulting language. This was awarded by Kaplan to the health care unit and was as a result extended to all four bargaining units.
  4. New limits are placed on the ability of nurses to cancel extra and relief shifts
  5. Nurse Educators are no longer eligible for sabbatical pay

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