The province introduced a bill today, March 31, to guarantee essential care for Nova Scotians during a strike or lockout affecting health care, homes for seniors, youth, or people with special needs.
The Essential Health and Community Services Act requires unions and employers to have an essential services agreement in place before job action is taken. If they cannot reach an agreement, an independent third party decides.
Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada without this type of essential services legislation.
“Like all Canadians, Nova Scotians deserve to know their health and safety won’t be in jeopardy during a labour disruption,” said Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan. “Government also values the critical work of employees who care for people who are sick, older, or have special needs. This legislation also protects the right to strike once an essential services agreement is in place.”
Essential service is based on the risk of death or serious health consequences if the service is not provided. These include services critical to mental or physical health.
Unions and employers affected by the legislation include those for:
– homes for seniors, the disabled or youth
– ambulance dispatchers
The legislation takes effect as soon as it is passed, and does not expire.
The parties can request conciliation or mediation to help negotiate an essential services agreement. If they can’t agree on essential services, or fail to negotiate, either party can apply to the labour board. The legislation ensures the process happens quickly.
“Most employers and unions reach collective agreements without strikes or lockouts, but even the possibility of a labour disruption can create stress and confusion,” said Ms. Regan. “This bill gives certainty to people who need and provide care, and ensures essential services must be provided in the event of a strike or lockout.”
Employers or unions that take job action before an essential services agreement is in place can be fined $100,000 for the first day, and $10,000 for each additional day. People can be fined $1,000 for the first day, and $200 for each additional day.
At 12:01 a.m. on April 3, 2,400 registered nurses at Capital Health – who are represented by the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees’ Union – will be in a legal strike position. The NSGEU has suggested illegal strike action is possible before that date.
If you are a patient, and you’re wondering how your healthcare at Capital Health may be impacted, please visit www.cdha.nshealth.ca/job-action, or call (855) 473-2700.
Monday, March 31, 2014 – 9:08pm
Mediation between Capital Health and NSGEU Local 97 (registered nurses) ended in an impasse Monday evening, March 31.
We are disappointed we were not able to reach an agreement.
The Nova Scotia government introduced essential services legislation at 7 p.m. Monday night.
NSGEU has indicated in previous correspondence to its members that introduction of the legislation will result in “immediate strike action.”
Capital Health requires all staff to report for all scheduled shifts except in accordance with terms of a legal strike.
A legal strike by the 2,400 members of Local 97 (registered nurses) cannot begin until at least Thursday, April 3, at 12:01 a.m.
All non-striking employees will be expected to come to work during any labour disruption. Your manager has details about crossing picket lines and duties.
Visit the Capital Health website
for the most up-to-date information about service closures, procedures for crossing picket lines and Q and As. There is information here for staff and the public (patients, clients and visitors).
All employees are expected to wear their IDs at all times. Security will be checking. If you need a new ID, speak to your manager as soon as possible.
Thursday, March 27, 2014 – 12:08pm
Capital Health has met with representatives of NSGEU Local 97 (registered nurses) this week to review emergency staffing levels in the event of a strike.
We used the opportunity to lay out the clinical rationale for the staffing levels our physicians and directors have identified as necessary to avoid endangering the lives of patients in 195 service areas where NSGEU registered nurses work.
In response, the union has agreed to provide greater levels of emergency staffing in many areas as well as additional on-call coverage.
However, the union’s proposed emergency staffing numbers remain well short of our clinical contingency plan.
Some outstanding areas of concern include:
- Proposed registered nurse staffing levels for patients with acute mental illness will not meet our clients’ needs. This will create an unsafe environment for patients and staff of mental health inpatient units.
- More than half of beds in certain units at the QEII Health Sciences Centre will close. These units-medicine and community-receive many admissions from the emergency department. This will result in a backlog of admitted patients in the emergency department during a strike.
- Fourteen of 26 neurosurgery beds would close during a strike under proposed staffing levels. This is a provincial service. Without this capacity, it is likely we would have to send patients out of province for treatment.
- Proposed registered nurse staffing levels for post-operative care at QEII will not allow us to meet 48-hour standards for urgent surgery.
- To continue a methadone treatment program, we must take a registered nurse from the 16-bed inpatient detox unit. As a result, that unit will close during a strike.
Any registered nurse staffing levels less than those requested by our physicians and clinical leaders who plan and deliver care will put our patients at risk and have a negative impact on our provincial health care system.