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Negotiate, don't legislate. Union members rally at Liberal Annual General Meeting

by Robert Devet

Angry union members rallied in front of the Westin Hotel, location of the Liberal annual general meeting.  Photo Robert Devet
Photo Robert Devet
Photo Robert Devet
Photo Robert Devet
Photo Robert Devet
Photo Robert Devet
Photo Robert Devet
Photo Robert Devet
Photo Robert Devet
Photo Robert Devet
Photo Robert Devet
Photo Robert Devet

K'JIPUKTUK (Halifax) - Hundreds of home support workers, nurses and sympathizers gathered in front of the Westin Hotel this morning.

Inside the hotel the provincial Liberal Party Annual General Meeting was in full swing. Outside, protesters let premier Stephen McNeil know that they do not want the right to strike taken away from workers.

"You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all the time, but Premier McNeil, you cannot fool workers any time," Rick Clarke, President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, told the crowd.

"We are calling a meeting of the leadership of all the unions because we are going to develop a strategy.," said Clarke.

"We believe an injury to one is an injury to all. If [Stephen McNeil} wants peace and cooperation than he should stay out of the media and let negotiations work."

In late February the provincial Liberal government introduced Bill 30, essential services legislation that efffectively took away the right to strike from home support workers.

And with a nurses strike looming, the worry is that history will repeat itself in very short order. Nurses have raised the alarm about working conditions that they say put patients health and even lives at risk.

Nurses argue that mandated nurse-to-patient ratios are necessary, since existing processes to address staff shortages have proven useless.

Government and hospital management do not want to discuss staff ratios at the bargaining table.

"Every single day thousands of Nova Scotians put themselves in danger to go out on the road, to stand by the bedside, to work in the jails, to protect this province," Joan Jessome, President of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, told the enthusiastic crowd.

"And, mr. Premier, you have no right to take away our right every time we want to talk about how to make things better for our patients and our citizens. If you are going to do that you are going to have a rough four years, and that's a promise."

Although asked by the mediator to return to the bargaining table on Monday, Jessome believes back to work legislation remains a real possibility for the nurses.

"We are scheduled to go back back to the table at 8:45 Monday morning, which is a good thing because we want to negotiate a deal at the bargaining table," Jessome told reporters.

"But we're going there with our eyes open. We would like to get a deal, but we have been down this road before. We're going in, but we're not going in thinking that back to work legislation isn't going to happen."

Nurses will be in a position to strike on April 3rd.


See also:

Northwood home support staff ready to strike if that's what it takes

Striking home support workers surround Province House

Understaffing puts patients at risk, nurses say

California nurses have no regrets

Nurses strike ever more likely


Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert



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