Nova Scotia hospital workers reach tentative agreement, avert strike

Last-minute deal sends wage issue to binding arbitration
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 04/26/2012

A strike by 3,600 of Nova Scotia’s hospital workers was averted after the workers’ union and the Capital District Health Authority (CDHA) reached a last-minute deal.

The two parties reached a tentative agreement 12 hours before the nurses, occupational therapists, social workers and medical lab technicians were set to hit the picket line. Bargaining committees from the CDHA and Nova Scotia General Employees Union (NSGEU) Local 42 stayed four hours after negotiations were set to end to reach the agreement.

"I think it's something we can live with and that we can recommend," NSGEU president Joan Jessome said. "I don't think we would have gotten better if we were on strike."

The union will begin voting on the agreement on April 25 with results expected on April 27.

“This news is the best outcome we could have hoped for our patients and their families," CDHA CEO Chris Powers said. "We know that even the threat of a strike has had a tremendous impact on them, as well as on our employees, both in Local 42 and others."

The two parties have decided to send the issue of wages to binding arbitration. The NSGEU and the CDHA have until the end of April to each "name a nominee to the Board of Arbitration and provide the other party with the names of three qualified persons who are acceptable to serve as Chair of the Board of Arbitration," the agreement reads.

The board is required to render a decision by June 15.

Initially, the NSGEU was demanding a 5.1 per cent increase in the first year of the agreement to match an arbitrator's earlier award for the area’s registered nurses. For the remaining three years of the agreement, the union was hoping for cost-of-living increases. In the final offer posted on the union’s website, the NSGEU was asking for 2.9 per cent increases in the first two years and a 3.25 per cent increase in the third.

Initially, the CDHA was offering a one per cent pay increase in each of the three years. The CDHA was offering a two per cent increase in each of the first two years, followed by a 2.5 per cent increase in the third year, according to the final offer posted on the union’s website.

Both parties were prepared for a strike. The NSGEU had about 70 picket lines already organized, the union said. The CDHA had cancelled around 430 surgeries and 1,900 outpatient appointments, and closed 170 beds, the organization said.

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