A new essential services bill was passed, but a large faction of Halifax nurses are not thrilled with it. Joan Jessome, the president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, said that the bill essentially strips the nurses of their right to strike.
According to the bill, dubbed the Essential Health and Community Services Act, an essential services agreement must be in place between employees and employers in the healthcare sector before any lockouts or strikes are legally allowed to start. In anticipation of the bill’s passing, the union filed a strike notice just hours before it was officially introduced. While a number of nurses in the Halifax area refused to show up for work today in protest, the union cannot legally go on strike until Thursday. Furthermore, the union has nonetheless agreed to keep emergency services running as usual.
The union contests that the new bill tips the scales of the collecting bargaining process unfairly in favor of employers. The legislature committee debated the bill throughout the night before it was passed, and nurses gathered outside the building to protest while the debate was going on. The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union represents about 2,400 nurses in total.
The health authority and the union have had a tough time finding a middle ground to agree upon. A mediator was even brought in but could not bring the two sides close enough together on a number of issues. One of the biggest issues has been the union’s demand for a higher nurse-to-patient ration in hospitals, citing an improvement in patient safety as a result. The health authority, however, has been adamant that this would not be the case and that there was no credible evidence suggesting that a mandated nurse-to-patient ratio would guarantee improved safety for patients.