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Healthcare workers want to stay in union of their choice

Legislation to merge District Health Authorities also imposes specific unions on workers

by Robert Devet

They are angry. Janet Hazelton of the NSNU, Rick Clarke of the NS Federation of Labour, Danny Cavanagh of CUPE NS, Corey Vermey of Unifor, and Joan Jessome of the NSGEU held a press conference on the steps of Province House to protest new legislation that imposes specific unions on healthcare workers. Photo Robert Devet
They are angry. Janet Hazelton of the NSNU, Rick Clarke of the NS Federation of Labour, Danny Cavanagh of CUPE NS, Corey Vermey of Unifor, and Joan Jessome of the NSGEU held a press conference on the steps of Province House to protest new legislation that imposes specific unions on healthcare workers. Photo Robert Devet

(K'JIPUKTUK) HALIFAX -  This Monday Nova Scotia's Health Minister Leo Glavine will introduce legislation that dictates to healthcare workers which union they must belong to.

“We will identify who will represent nurses, who will represent technologists, clerical and administration,” Glavine told the Chronicle Herald earlier.

The legislation merges nine district health authorities in the province into two, and reduces the number of collective agreements with health care units to just four, based on classification.

But what has union members and their leadership upset is what it does to existing union membership.

“I am angry about this legislation. What (premier) McNeil is trying to push through is that he is going to tell people what union to belong to,” CUPE member Louise Riley told the Halifax Media Co-op. “Next thing you know he will tell us who to vote for.”

Riley was part of a hundred or so union members and workers who gathered in front of Province House in a show of support. Leaders of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), Unifor and the Nova Scotia Nurses Union (NSNU) all addressed the impromptu rally and spoke to the press.

At this time various unions may represent the same classification of worker, depending on the Health Authority. For instance, Registered Nurses in metro by and large belong to the NSGEU, while elsewhere in Nova Scotia they tend to be members of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union.

The four unions that are directly affected are vowing to fight this part of the legislation tooth and nail.

The unions are upset because they believe their detailed joint proposal to keep current membership intact and allow unions to bargain collective agreements together was ignored.

The union organizations have worked on their proposal since June, and were led to believe that the government was sympathetic, Rick Clarke, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, told the gathered workers and media. 

“All healthcare workers are proud of the union that represents them, and we want to keep it that way,” Janet Hazelton, president of the NSNU told the crowd. “They want to stay with their union, and we support that. It's the only way that there is going to be peace in the healthcare sector in this province. No other way is going to be successful,” said Hazelton.

“We went into the talks in good faith. But government had another plan. They are devious, they can't be trusted and they are liars,” said Joan Jessome, president of the NSGEU, to loud cheers from the crowd. “Our members have chosen their unions for the right reasons, and they should remain in their unions.”

Danny Cavanagh, president of Nova Scotia CUPE, asked that people attend a rally at Province House this Monday when the new legislation will be introduced.

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

 


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