Health Care Bargaining

This article appeared in the summer issue of the Union Stand:

In early July, health care workers represented by the Health Care Council of Unions (NSGEU, CUPE & Unifor) voted to accept a tentative agreement put forward by their bargaining committee for acceptance.

That contract, which is effective from November 1st, 2020 to October 31st, 2023, includes a variety of improvements, including:
A 5.5% wage increase for all pay grades (1.5% effective Nov. 1st, 2020, 1.5% effective Nov. 1st, 2021, 1.5% effective Nov. 1st, 2022, and 1% effective the final day of the agreement, Oct. 31st, 2023);
Additional wage increases for Care Team Assistants (CTAs), amounting to 2% on date of ratification and 3% on June 1st, 2022;
Matching acute care paramedics’ rates of pay to those of IOUE retroactive to Nov. 1st, 2020;
And the creation of a joint Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Reconciliation Committee, composed of equal representation from employers and the unions.

This new agreement did not come to the Council easily. An enormous amount of work went into developing bargaining proposals in advance of negotiations, which began in April 2021. Those negotiations were interrupted by the third wave of COVID lockdown, and at that point, employer representatives began to delay the Council’s efforts to the return to the bargaining table.

Ultimately, the Council filed for conciliation, and when we were unable to reach an agreement at the end of the final scheduled day of conciliation, the unions’ began conducting a strike vote and started a public campaign, pointing out that Nova Scotia’s health care workers had lost their place as “leading in Atlantic Canada,” thanks to the past seven years of austerity measures by the provincial Liberal government.

With a provincial election looming, this created an enormous amount of pressure. Two days after conciliation talks broke off, the employer and government reached out to the Council, asking them to return to the table. With the assistance of a Conciliation Officer and two additional days of talks, the employer finally presented the Council with an offer they were comfortable recommending to the membership for acceptance.

“We know that health care workers are dedicated to their jobs, and they have stepped up for Nova Scotians in a very big way throughout this pandemic,” said NSGEU President Jason MacLean, “We are pleased we were ultimately able to negotiate an agreement that begins to get them back on track to where they need to be: leading in Atlantic Canada.”
The bargaining committee and NSGEU staff appreciate the patience and support shown by all health care members during this round of bargaining, as it was instrumental in reaching a new collective agreement.

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