Premier responds to illegal strike threat from Halifax nurses

Haley Ryan, Metro Halifax
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HALIFAX - Nova Scotia’s premier says there is no back to work legislation on the table for Halifax area nurses just yet, but the province will use “whatever means necessary” to ensure patient safety.

Premier Stephen McNeil answers questions at One Government Place.

Premier Stephen McNeil told reporters Tuesday he was disappointed mediated negotiations between the Nova Scotia General Employees Union (NSGEU) and the Capital District Health Authority broke down Sunday after three days of talks.

“We’re looking for any sign from the two sides that they’re going to continue to find a resolution to this problem,” McNeil said.

Union leader Joan Jessome said Monday her 2,500 nursing members are ready to walk off the job illegally if the province tables essential-services legislation.

McNeil said he is disappointed with the “amount of rhetoric” that has been going on in the public and media because he would like to see both sides at the table working on a settlement.

Although Jessome has said there has been no movement from Capital Health on the key point of mandated nurse-to-patient ratios, McNeil said Nova Scotia already has a ratio above the national average.

The province has 980 registered nurses per 100,000 people while the national average is 780 nurses, McNeil said.

“The question becomes ‘What more is going to make a difference? What more do you want?’” McNeil said.

Both sides were discussing emergency service staffing on Tuesday, and McNeil said he hoped “cooler heads will prevail” during that discussion and negotiations will start again.

“They need to show us something today that not only are they looking at emergency services, but that they are continuing to talk about how they find a permanent resolution.”

The government will let the bargaining process continue as long as both sides communicate, McNeil said, but will use “whatever means necessary to ensure that patient safety is being protected in this province.”

The union will be in a legal strike position April 3.


Premier needs to ‘step away from negotiating table:’ nurse

A Halifax nurse and member of their union bargaining committee said Tuesday that Premier Stephen McNeil needs to “step away” from their talks with the Capital District Health Authority (CDHA).

On Tuesday, Robert Chisholm responded to the premier’s comment that Nova Scotia already has high nurse-to-patient ratios by saying the province has a much older population than the rest of the country with more chronic illness and cancer rates.

“I think it’s worthy of mentioning,” Chisholm said. “That is why we do have the current nurse ratios that we do in this province.”

Chisholm said the Nova Scotia General Employees Union (NSGEU) was told by CDHA they didn’t have the authority to approve higher mandated nurse ratios.

“Obviously that might be a government-driven mandate,” he said. “I would ask the premier to actually step away from the negotiating table.”

Chisholm said he understands that patients are anxious about what would happen in the event of a strike, but added this is the “one and only” opportunity the union will have to get mandated nurse ratios in the province “and the nurses truly believe in it.”

He said it’s “highly unlikely” the union would take a deal that includes higher salaries or other demands but leaves out the nursing ratios.

Organizations: Nova Scotia General Employees Union, Capital District Health Authority

Geographic location: Halifax, Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Ricky
    March 28, 2014 - 10:40

    These are highly trained people and with our aging population we need our healthcare workers now more than ever. You can not just put anyone in these positions. I have never done their job but I do no they work very hard and spent thousands of dollars to become profressionals through universities in our province. Our province has become a recruiting place to train our workers to have them go to other provinces or across the border. It;s time to protect the people we have invested in to stay in our province. In a lot of our goverment agenices if it was not for our retires coming back to work to cover shortages we would be in worse condition then we are now. As a tax payer I don't mind paying my share if myself or my loveones are being well looke after and you can't put a price on a life. I support all unionize workers maybe it's time to look who's managing them.

  • antiunionnovascotia
    March 26, 2014 - 15:43

    I think they should go out on an illegal strike. Once they walk out illegally they can fired and we can hire new non unionized nurses.

    • Roy
      April 02, 2014 - 22:20

      Sure. Non-unionized. Just the excuse to cut wages. They barely get paid enough now

  • Sherry
    March 26, 2014 - 10:40

    I have to agree, I also have to say that miss Jessome is leaving a bad taste in poeple mouths, it seems to me like she's not really thinking of the poeple , just thinking of herself , Let them walk out bc I'm sure there will be ppl looking for work and would love to replace the walkouts. Miss Jessome is being unwilling to work with the government she seems to be working on her own agenda , and to be honest she likes stirring the pot. What I don't get is if they are short staffed call someone in like we do in the normal world it's just that simple.

  • Bazzy
    March 26, 2014 - 08:11

    Good for the Premier for taking this stand. I as a taxpayer in NS, am tired of always being held hostage in my eyes by the Nursing Union. Yes, nursing workloads are heavy, but look at the national ratio, we have 200 more nurses per 100, 000- people according to the nursing average. Based on this figure of 200 more nurses per 100,000 has patient care improved, no. The time has come to call their bluff, put more LPN's in place and put the RN's back into speciality areas like Intensive Care etc were they were at many years ago. You do not need at Degree , RN emptying bedpans! Are they in a stressful job, do they work short, yes. But so do other departments such as the Department of Community Services for example, they serve the public, they work short, they have horrific caseloads, they deal with a different form of crisis situations daily. I don't see Joanne Jessome standing on the bandwagon, yelling for extra staff for them based on their caseload volumes. Sorry, Premier, do you job , call the RN's bluff, dont get taken in like the last government did, if they want to leave the province let them leave, there will always be people who will replace them.