[HALIFAX, NS] — The Nova Scotia Nurses Union is accusing Premier Darrell Dexter of jeopardizing good-faith bargaining on the eve of negotiations between 6,500 nurses and the province.
At issue is a comment the premier made with regard to an arbitrated settlement between Nova Scotia Government Employees Union Local 42, which represents 3,600 health care professionals in the Capital Health district.
Dexter told reporters Tuesday that, with a finite funding envelope and raises that will cost the province between $3.3 million and $4.9 million, the union may be facing layoffs.
“The fact that (Dexter) is musing that if we would expect the same raise that he and Capital Health gave to the registered nurses there, that we wouldn’t anticipate that? … I don’t just anticipate it, I expect it,” said NSNU President Janet Hazelton.
But in response to questions from reporters and opposition parties on Wednesday, Dexter said he simply meant to point out the “blindingly obvious.”
“You have a finite amount of money. If you have (wage) increases that are not supportable, then you have very few choices,” Dexter told reporters.
“As I said yesterday, we’re going to support the budgets that have come forward from the district health authorities. I said yesterday as well that we would want to work with the employees, the district health authorities on some of the paths that we have already taken … around merged services and finding efficiencies.”
Registered nurses represented by the NSGEU may have set the precedent for this fight. Previously, public sector unions had been held to the one-one-one model — one per cent raises each year for three years.
In October 2011, NSGEU Local 97 was awarded an arbitrated settlement that will see their wages increase by 5.1 per cent in the final year of their contract.
The nurses union will begin bargaining with the district health authorities and the IWK Health Centre in the coming months.