Health Care Bargaining Update
Workers in our acute health care sector are under an enormous amount of pressure in the workplace right now, as our hospitals are being overwhelmed with respiratory illnesses. But many of these workers are also feeling the strain in another area of their life: their finances.
We’re all seeing the impacts of sky-high costs of living right now. Here in Nova Scotia, we’re experiencing shockingly high increases in housing, food and fuel prices, and many people – including our own members – are struggling to make ends meet. It doesn’t help that seven years of legislative interference from the previous Liberal government stifled any efforts to achieve fair economic increases for public sector workers.
In the face of these economic pressures, members of the health care bargaining committees are doing their best to push back at the bargaining table and demand more from their employers to help ease the burden on the members, and to ensure that we are better able to recruit and retain staff within our public system.
The Health Authorities Act, passed by the provincial government in 2014, requires all health care workers employed at Nova Scotia Health (NSH) and the IWK Health Centre to bargain together in a Council of Unions. Under the four Council constitutions, one union appoints the chief negotiator for each Council (you can view the Council Constitutions here.)
Much has changed since the Council of Unions began this round of negotiations for its four health care units: Canada’s rate of inflation has surged from 1.0 per cent at the beginning of 2021, when we began preparing for health care negotiations, to a whopping 8.1 per cent in June 2022.
Health Care initially exchanged proposals with the employer in April 2021, which means that during the first quarter of the year, while proposals were being developed, the rate of inflation ranged between 1 per cent and 2.2 per cent. In early July, Health Care workers voted to accept a contract effective November 1st, 2020 to October 31st, 2023, which included a 5.5% wage increase for all pay grades (1.5% effective November 1st, 2020, 1.5% effective November 1st, 2021, 1.5% effective November 1st, 2022, and 1% effective the final day of the agreement, October 31st, 2023); as well as additional wage increases for Care Team Assistants (CTAs), amounting to 2% on date of ratification and 3% on June 1st, 2022; and matching acute care paramedics’ rates of pay to those of IOUE retroactive to Nov. 1st, 2020.
Following the conclusion of the Health Care unit’s negotiations, the Health Support bargaining unit began to negotiate in late 2021. By that point, inflationary pressures were continuing to mount, with the rate of inflation hitting 4.8 per cent by the end of 2021. This gave us some additional leverage to break pattern and achieve a bit more at the table for Health Support members.
After many days at the bargaining table and with the assistance of a Conciliation Officer, in the early hours of August 16th, 2022, the Council reached a tentative agreement with Nova Scotia Health and IWK. That agreement included economic adjustments totaling 6.5% (compounded) over three years (1.5% effective November 1st, 2020; 1.5% effective November 1st, 2021; 3.0% effective November 1st, 2022; 0.5% to all pay grades on October 31st, 2023; and an extra $1 per hour increase at each step prior to the 3.0% increase effective November 1st, 2022 for all classifications with a top rate of less than $20 per hour as of October 31st, 2022.
Since Health Support ratified their agreement, the Administrative Professionals group has exchanged proposals with their employers, and the Nursing group has been busy developing updated proposals, based on newly collected feedback from members of the bargaining unit.
These bargaining committees will continue to push hard for more for our members as we advance in bargaining at these tables, and we will keep members updated as talks progress.
*This article appeared in the winter edition of the Union Stand.
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