Health-care workers not joking about strike action to back demands

Harry Sullivan
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TRURO - More than 400 local health-care workers have joined ranks with other union members in voting to strike in order to reach a collective bargaining agreement.
"And, we're not joking," said Karen MacKenzie, a diagnostic imaging technician at Colchester Regional Hospital and the local president for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
"We recognize the province has financial) issues. We're willing to work within that confine. But you're not taking us backwards," she said, directing her message to Premier Darrell Dexter and the provincial government.
"You're not balancing your budget on the backs of Nova Scotia health-care workers. That's just not on for us."
Yesterday, workers at the Colchester Regional and Lillian Fraser Memorial hospitals joined four other groups of health care, service and clerical workers in giving their support to union leaders that they are prepared to strike if a settlement can't be reached through collective bargaining.
Eighteen groups of CUPE hospital workers across the province, outside the Capital District, are holding strike votes.
The union announced last month there would be no job action in the hospital sector before Jan. 11, 2010 because of the H1N1 pandemic.
MacKenzie said yesterday the situation will be reassessed at that point but workers are committed to ensuring the public is not impacted during a flu pandemic.
"It's not our interest to put the public at risk," she said.
But MacKenzie also said the health-care workers (who do not include doctors or nurses) are adamant they will not give up gains reached a decade ago to maintain job and wage parity between workers in Halifax and those in other parts of the province.
"The employer said no to everything we had on the table," she said. "But in order for us to keep what we fought for 10 years ago, he (Dexter) has to come to the table and somehow maintain our wage parity..."
The province already has recruitment and retention issues at its health-care facilities, MacKenzie said, adding the government's position will not improve that situation.
"How are you going to staff the hospitals if (they are) not paid the same as Metro? That's the issue."
The other facilities represented by Tuesday's decision include those in Cumberland, Pictou and Antigonish counties.
In all some 3,200 health-care workers are affected in 33 hospitals across the province.

Organizations: Canadian Union of Public Employees, Colchester Regional Hospital, CUPE hospital Metro inc.

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Halifax, Cumberland Antigonish

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Recent comments

  • Stan the Man
    March 01, 2010 - 14:40

    The health care unions are always threatening to strike. They are lucky to be getting the big pay cheques they have now. Stop whinning !!!!

  • Jon
    March 01, 2010 - 14:40

    Here we go again. Money, money, money.

    It is perfectly acceptable for workers in different locales to receive different wages. Are they acting as if this uncommon or unfair?

  • So what
    March 01, 2010 - 14:40

    Big whoop. I'm a professional and I do not get paid what I can get paid in Halifax for doing the same work I do here. It is a sacrifice I make to work in the area I want to live and work in. It is a trade off to not have to live in, or commute to, Halifax everyday. If I worked the same job in Tatamagouche, I would fully expect to make even less there. It's not uncommon, it's probably more the norm... Deal with it..