Update on Bill 1 Decision

Yesterday, arbitrator James Dorsey provided the government and all four unions representing health care workers with his decision regarding the labour component of Bill 1 (the Health Authorities Act).

The decision, which is a 196-page document, is very complex and provides a great deal of historical context. If you are interested in reading it in its entirety, click here. We spent the greater part of Monday consulting with our legal counsel, who helped us to interpret Mr. Dorsey’s decision.

Ultimately, he has not assigned each of the four bargaining units to each of the four unions, as was specified in Bill 1. In fact, his ruling is a direct rejection of the government’s cynical attempt to force thousands of healthcare workers from their chosen union.

Instead, he has suggested a number of possible outcomes, and laid out a path forward that we believe will allow NSGEU members to stay with NSGEU. Mr. Dorsey has given the unions an opportunity to bargain collective agreements in another form of bargaining associations – Amalgamated Health Care Unions – provided all unions are able to work together cooperatively.

According to Mr. Dorsey’s decision, if the unions cannot agree on an Amalgamated Health Care Union for any of the four bargaining units, then any union which holds the majority of members at both the new Provincial Health Authority (PHA) and the IWK could opt to simply take the members of the other unions. Currently, the NSGEU holds the majority of members at both the IWK and PHA for both the Clerical and Health Care bargaining units. No union holds the clear “double majority” in either Nursing or Support Services.

In his decision, Mr. Dorsey states that, as per the legislation, all LPNs will be included in the new Nursing bargaining unit.

He concluded that workers who stay in their current positions will keep their current collective agreement provisions until their new bargaining agents negotiate new agreements. This is good news, as it means the NSGEU members will not see changes to their agreements immediately, and any proposed changes will have to be ratified by the membership in their new bargaining units.

Mr. Dorsey also ruled that he does not have the authority to order a vote, but suggested the Minister of Health and Wellness could choose to do so. However, in statements made to the media yesterday, Minister Glavine was very clear that he did not plan to allow health care workers to vote on any aspect of their union representation.

We are pleased with the work Mr. Dorsey has done to date, considering the numerous constrictions he faces with this legislation. In his decision, Mr. Dorsey relied on current membership numbers as an expression of the wishes of healthcare workers rather than abiding by the Liberals’ scheme of forcing people out of their chosen unions. He ruled the NSGEU constitutional challenge did not need to be considered because he interpreted and applied the Act in a way that respected the rights of employees to join a union of their choosing.

Mr. Dorsey made this interpretation by concluding that he did not believe elected MLAs would want to override the democratic wishes of unionized healthcare workers: “Such cavalier or cynical intentions to interfere so radically in the autonomy of employees to have independent trade union bargaining agents they select or establish to represent them cannot be attributed to members of the legislative assembly,” Mr. Dorsey wrote, before concluding that developing a single bargaining agent comprised of multiple unions was one option that would work.

The NSGEU would also like to respond to a confusing update issued to health care workers by Deputy Minister of Health, Peter Vaughan. Mr. Vaughan sent an email yesterday that has led some NSGEU members to become concerned that yesterday’s arbitration decision will force them into another union. That is not correct. No final decision has been made by Mr. Dorsey on which union members will belong to, and should the unions manage to work together to create Amalgamated Health Care Unions, almost all existing NSGEU members should remain with the NSGEU.

We look forward to continuing to work out a solution to the very difficult situation the Liberal government has created, and plan to meet again with Mr. Dorsey and the other unions from February 2nd to 6th.

If you have questions or concerns about this process, please contact the NSGEU by calling 902-424-4063 (toll-free 1-877-556-7438) or emailing inquiry@nsgeu.ca.

You can watch President Joan Jessome speak with media yesterday here or hear her outline the NSGEU’s reaction on News 95.7 here.

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