Congratulations to our Canadian sisters!
N.S. agrees to arbitration
Decision averts walkout by nurses
HALIFAX - Faced with a threatened mass resignation by health workers, the Nova Scotia government backed down yesterday and agreed to take the labour dispute to a form of binding arbitration.
Premier John Hamm said yesterday the province and unions representing 9,000 health-care workers will be allowed to take new offers to an independent third party, who will impose either the unions' or government's contract terms.
The Tory premier said during a news conference that the process would replace Bill 68, recent legislation that stripped many health-care workers of their right to strike and prompted threats of mass resignations among nurses.
The political pressure cooker has been building steadily since last Thursday, when nurses and other health workers, who do jobs ranging from medical lab technology to psychology, threatened a campaign of mass resignations that would have crippled the system.
Yesterday morning, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union revealed 1,450 nurses had been prepared to quit their jobs.
The province called union and management members to the table as the union prepared to hand in the resignation forms.
Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, stood before cheering members and said: ``Today we're celebrating a victory, but it took three weeks of turmoil.''
In other communities, 4,400 nurses represented by the Nova Scotia Nurses Union were set to go on strike July 13.
President, Nova Scotia Nurses Union
Heather Henderson, president of the nurses' union, said that process is now on hold, but cautioned that arbitration didn't mean nurses would get everything they want.
``What we have today is a beginning. You need to understand it's not an agreement,'' she said.
Hamm's announcement amounted to an about-face for the Tory premier. Just a week ago, here had denounced binding arbitration as being too costly.
But yesterday, as Hamm sat before dozens of nurses and other health workers in Province House's historic red room, a news release was passed out saying arbitration would solve the dispute ``without borrowing money.''
Jessome wouldn't speculate on whether her original goal of achieving wage settlements for nurses of 20 per cent over three years will be reached.
The province has offered 10.5 per cent over the same period.
Other health-care workers were looking for an increase of 9 per cent, plus cost-of-living increases over three years.
The government had offered less -- six per cent for two years.
Jessome predicted her team could field a ``credible offer'' that the arbitrator would have to seriously consider.