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Nurses who walked off the job suspended by Capital Health

by Robert Devet

Joan Jessome told a press conference today that suspending nurses for two days without pay is excessive and is only making things worse.  Photo Robert Devet
Joan Jessome told a press conference today that suspending nurses for two days without pay is excessive and is only making things worse. Photo Robert Devet

K'JIPUKTUK, HALIFAX - Between 150 and 200 nurses will be disciplined by Capital Health, their employer. Affected are the nurses who walked off the job on April 1st when the Liberal government introduced Bill 37, legislation that effectively removed their bargaining rights,

Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, believes that most if not all nurses will be suspended without pay for two days.

"The workplace is already understaffed, nurses can't get the odd day off, and now they want to take 400 shifts out of that workplace... Patients will suffer, it is unavoidable," Jessome told reporters at a press conference at the NSGEU office in Burnside.

"Nurses with 15 years experience can't get summer vacation, so I don't know how [Capital Health] can say that they can absorb this over the next several months.  That is prime vacation time," said Jessome.

All cases will be grieved, Jessome said, and the affected nurses will be fully supported by the NSGEU.

Jessome believes that the punitive actions by Capital Health are meant to send a message to healthcare workers anywhere in Nova Scotia.

The two-day suspensions constitutes excessive punishment, Jessome argues.

"This wasn't just a wildcat walkout, it was controlled, it was timed. When they were ordered back they went back to work."

"The nurses were angry, they decided not to be pushed away. They stood up for patients' safety, and they stood up for workers' rights, now they are being punished yet again," Jessome said.

Jessome told reporters that today's news has made an already dysfunctional work environment even worse. Existing staff will look for jobs elsewhere, and no new nurse will want to apply for a job with Capital Health, Jessome predicts.

And it is counter to claims by Capital Health that now that the strike is over it wants to start the healing process, Jessome adds. ""Other things could have been done. A letter on file is a significant issue for a nurse."

"The entire local is up in arms," said Jessome. "They will suport each other. We have nurses asking, how can we help our colleagues?"

Jessome does not believe that this is purely a matter between the employer and the nurses, not something government gets involved with.

"I still firmly believe that the government is aware. I cannot believe, with all the heat the government took over scabies and rodents and everything else, that this employer would hand out these disciplinary letters without the knowledge of the Minister of Health and the Premier."

See also

Understaffing puts patients at risk, nurses say

California nurses have no regrets

Nurses strike ever more likely

Negotiate, don't legislate. Union members rally at Liberal AGM

"It's not about one contract,..."

Nurses are not in the struggle alone

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert



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