HOW A STRIKE WILL WORK:
Q. Will we strike legally, or illegally?
There is a 14-day countdown to a legal strike, as per the Labour Board. We are in the midst of this countdown period, and will be in a legal strike position as of April 3rd, provided we file 48-hour notice to the Minister of Labour.
This government is very likely to introduce essential services legislation, which will effectively take away your right to strike. Having the right to strike has enabled us to negotiate the best possible collective agreement for nurses over the years. Without it, we will beg, not bargain.
Collectively, nurses have decided if government moves to take away your right to strike, they will take immediate strike action. This does not mean your patients will be abandoned. The NSGEU has developed a comprehensive emergency services plan, which ensures patients’ safety will not be compromised, even in the event of an illegal strike.
That plan includes a set number of nurses who need to be working in each area, in the event of an illegal or legal strike, as determined by the emergency services agreement. Staff in each area will decide who will stay on the job if there is a strike.
Please make sure the union has your email or phone number by calling 424-4063 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. How will a strike be called?
The NSGEU has designated a contact person from each area or work at Capital Health. The minute government introduces essential services legislation, the designated contact from your area will contact all RNs scheduled to work at the next shift, and determine who will show up to take over from the current shift, as per the emergency services plan.
Any RN who is not designated to work, as per the emergency services plan, will be expected to head to the Legislature to join the picket. We will also have another picket at the hospital, to ensure any RN required to be “on-call” is nearby, but still able to participate in the picket.
Q. What kind of penalties will we face in the event of illegal strike action?
It is difficult to predict what the employer will do in the event of an illegal (“wildcat”) strike. It’s possible the employer will choose not to pay people who participate in an illegal strike. Kathy MacNeil has indicated that the employer may discipline people who participate in a strike. We do not know what they will do. But, it is unlikely they will do anything of serious consequence when hundreds of nurses walk out. Remember, there is strength in numbers!
It is unlikely they will do anything to change the benefits of those who are on various leaves like sick leave and maternity leave or vacation. The employer cannot do anything about benefits for people on WCB or those on maternity leave who are in receipt of EI because they do not pay those benefits.
The College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia recently sent out a job action fact sheet, which indicates nurses are not prohibited from taking part in job action. They do not have a role in disciplining RNs who choose to partake in job action, provided they do not violate their Code of Ethics or Standards of Practice.
If an illegal strike occurs, Capital Health will first go the Labour Board and then seek a court injunction to try and end the strike, a process that could take just hours. The union could face fines.
Q. What is strike pay for NSGEU members during job action?
NSGEU policy provides for $125 per week in strike pay plus $25 for dependents provided the member completes a minimum 20 hours of strike duties.
Q. If we walk out illegally, will those who choose not to participate still get their full pay if they go to the work place?
It should be noted that those who do cross are unlikely to be viewed favourably by their co-workers. The principle of solidarity, togetherness and unity to bring strength to the struggle is something that becomes very real when workers are taking job action. With regards to payment, the union has no control over what your employer does.
Q. What happens if the strike occurs on my days off?
If a strike were to occur on your days off, we would expect the members to be present on the picket line to support your coworkers.
Q. I am presently in a term position in another local of NSGEU, what responsibilities do I have? Will management reassign me to complete “struck work”?
If a member is employed in another Local that is not currently taking strike action, they would be responsible to report for work as they would regularly. We ask, however, that the member join the strike when they are available.
If you are asked to cover in the event of a legal strike The Trade Union Act protects you from any disciplinary consequences if you refuse to do the work of another employee who is on strike. The work of someone who is on strike is called “struck work”.
“No Employer and no person acting on behalf of an Employer shall: suspend, discharge or impose any financial or other penalty on an employee or take any other disciplinary action against an employee, by reason of his refusal to perform all or some of the duties and responsibilities of another employee who is participating in a strike that is not prohibited by this Act” – Section 53 (3)c of the Trade Union Act.
If you are asked to do the work of striking employees, please contact the NSGEU (424-4063). In the event of an illegal strike members of other locals are not covered by the provisions of the Trade Union Act. They are covered by their own collective agreement which has restrictions on where they are required to work. Employees asked to work in another area may be disciplined by the employer if they refuse.
Q. I have a trip booked out of the country and my manager has told me I cannot go because of the strike. Is this true?
Yes. Your employer reserves the right to approve and deny vacations. Operationally speaking, we could argue in the defence of the member that it is unnecessary to do so because we have arranged appropriate emergency services. Articles 17.16, 17.17 and 17.18 require the employer to pay expenses for an employee who has been recalled from vacation. The union would file a grievance seeking reimbursement of any expenses incurred as a result of cancelled vacations.
Anyone in this situation should contact your ERO immediately (Rebecca Norris, 476-1155 or email@example.com) as you should be reimbursed for reasonable expenses and potential hours.
Q. Will we picket all night long?
The President of the union will determine where and when we picket. The times of the picketing are to be determined and are often decided quickly. Please check the NSGEU website (nsgeu.ca), call the union at 424-4063 and also stay in close contact with your contact person in your work area. You can also contact Trish MacDonald at 233-1718 or Amanda Parsons 209-8861.
Q. I’ve heard LPN’s are already getting numerous calls for overtime over the next coming week or so. Do they have to go in?
Members in other bargaining units not directly affected by the strike are expected to go to work each day and do their job. If someone needs to talk to the union to better understand their rights on turning down overtime from a manager who is pressuring them to accept it during a strike in their workplace, ask them to call the union at 424-4063.
Q. Why did we switch to an illegal strike from mass resignation?
Members who attended the emergency meeting on Sunday recognized that an illegal strike can happen immediately while it can take two weeks for mass resignations to take effect. The legislation will likely be introduced and passed in the legislature the same day. The only way to send an immediate message and have a fast reaction, including a demonstration, is through an illegal strike.
Q. What happens to nurses who are currently taking critical care courses?
If the course is of benefit to you and it would cause disruption to your professional development by not attending, the union would advise you to attend. If the employer tries to pull you from the course and have you complete bargaining unit work, the union would advise you to report to a picket line immediately.
Q. I am on STI. What happens to my medical benefits if we are on strike? Also if we are on strike, I can’t walk the picket line, so would I be entitled to any pay? I am on a unit that would be fully staffed.
It is highly unlikely that your employer would look to challenge your STI benefits. In the event they did, NSGEU would immediately file a grievance and challenge this decision.
If you are unable to walk on the picket-line, please contact Kelly Murphy by calling 830-1499, and we can find other ways you can help with job action!
Q. I am eligible to fully retire next week; if I take illegal job action can the employer fire me?
The solidarity of the nurses have indicated that if anyone is disciplined, up to and including termination, that nobody will return to work unless everyone returns to work. Regardless of any disciplinary action the employer may impose, your pension will be protected.
Q. I work as a casual; one of the units I work in is a step-down unit. If we go on strike, am I supposed to cancel my shifts? How will it be communicated if I am part of the emergency services?
If you are pre-booked for a step-down unit where we are providing 100% staffing, you should report for your scheduled shift. Get in touch with your area contact person if you have any additional questions (if you don’t know who your area contact person is, please contact Rick Wiseman at 220-4477.
Q. I am on maternity leave. How is top-up pay affected if we are to go on strike?
It is entirely up to your employer if your top-up will be affected during an illegal strike. It is unlikely that they would cancel it; however we cannot guarantee it. If they did, the union would immediately file a grievance to challenge this decision. Your EI benefits would remain untouched as it relates to this job action.