Conciliation talks break down over nurse-to-patient ratio

Nova Scotia nurses vote overwhelmingly in favour of job action

Talks have broken down between Capital Health and the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) Local 97 after just one day of conciliation.

The union reports the employer refuses to bargain on an article-by-article basis while the issue of nurse-to-patient ratio remains on the table.

“Capital Health and the provincial government are ignoring the nurses’ main bargaining issue,” said union president Joan Jessome in a statement. “Nurses are adamant about achieving nurse-to-patient ratios to improve patient safety. Nurses know ratios mean better patient care, faster recoveries and safer hospitals. The McNeil government should be listening to nurses on safety, not ignoring them.”

Jessome went on to say the government’s interference in recent bargaining for home support workers in the province had a significant impact on the collapse of the nurses’ talks.

“Capital Health bargained like it expected the McNeil government to bring in essential services legislation in the event it couldn’t reach a deal,” she said. “That interference meant Capital Health felt no pressure.”

The employer reportedly refused to negotiate reasonable emergency service coverage in the event of a strike. Jessome said nurses would provide full coverage in emergency rooms, ICUs, veterans’ care, hemodialysis and cancer care as well as basic coverage in other areas.

A strike vote held in February saw nurses vote overwhelmingly in favour of job action. Ninety per cent of workers voted to walk off the job to back contract demands.

“The McNeil government has decided to participate in blackmail bargaining rather than listen to nurses’ real concerns about patient safety,” Jessome said. “That is a mistake.”

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