Planning for hospital workers strike

Darrell Cole
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Planning for hospital workers strike

AMHERST - Closing rural emergency departments is just one of the possibilities being considered by the Cumberland Health Authority as it plans for a possible strike by hospital workers in early January.

Officials with the CHA are busy making contingency plans for the eventuality that its unionized hospital workers could hit the picket line as early as Jan. 11.

"In Cumberland County that number represents about 300 people so it could have a huge impact," authority spokesperson Ann Keddy said. "We're continuing to assess the impact and are preparing a plan if it happens all the while hoping that something will happen to prevent it from happening."

CUPE, the union representing hospital workers in areas of the province outside Metro Halifax, is meeting with health authorities to work out how to maintain emergency health services in the event of a strike. Keddy said preliminary meetings have been held in Cumberland County and that additional meetings are expected.

In Cumberland, the strike would impact many services throughout the district including laboratory, diagnostic imaging, pharmacy, physio and occupational therapy, dietary, clerical, environmental services, information services, materials management, financial services and some mental health services.

"We'll have about 50 people trying to do the work of about 300 so it would be difficult to maintain service," Keddy said.

Because of the staffing shortage associated with a work stoppage, Keddy said emergency rooms in Pugwash, Parrsboro, Springhill and Advocate will likely be closed. The ER at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre would be kept open.

Also, all non-emergency services would be suspended during the strike including surgeries.

Medical staff, including nurses, would not be affected by a strike. She said management and other non-unionized workers would continue working, although Keddy said there's only so much they can do.

Last weekend, 85 per cent of CUPE members voted in favour of a strike to back contract demands for wage parity with their counterparts in Halifax. The province is only offering a one per cent increase.

The union has already said it would not strike during the H1N1 outbreak, but with the number of cases dwindling and assessment and vaccination clinics shutting down a strike is becoming more of a possibility.

Organizations: Cumberland Health Authority, Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre

Geographic location: Cumberland County, Pugwash

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Recent comments

  • justagirl
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    The strike is not about asking for more money, its about asking to be on par with what the same positions are being paid in other parts of the province ie :halifax area. I dont think that is an unfair request considering people in our area work just as hard as people in other areas of the province.

  • Mike
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Dave Smith - you're on the right track...but think bigger. Privatize everything in the healthcare industry. Competition between doctors will drive prices down and won't jeopardize quality of care. We no longer have room or a palate for these unions - they promote mediocrity and are the ultimate product of a management team that has failed. Unions were great years ago before legislation came along to protect the typical employee from tyranical employers. Look at the automotive industry - unions are one of the reasons for the problems the big three have had. Healthcare is on that same path of destruction.

  • jr
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    To Troy Thompson from Victori BC: Before you fire off condeming all those that are members of CUPE at the Hospital. Let me tell you that some do not want to strike was so ever. Also, if you worked there instead of just going by what others tell you, then you would look at things a little differently. I for one do not have all the details and by listening to the union members you are only getting one side of the story. We all know that in these types of situations, that it turns into a he said- she said type of thing. Not trying to stir things up, but we ahve to look at all sides of a situation.

  • Ben
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Government at all levels is viewed from the outside looking in as a great place to work. Working conditions, including health benefits, pension, rate of pay, vacations, and so on are viewed as superior to what other working folks can only dream of. If those of you contemplating a strike don't agree with this perception, please inform us and we will let the facts speak for themselves.

  • guy
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    good luck, they should be getting whatever they want really, look at the cha website and the amount of vacant positions. if they can't fill them now, what makes you think they can fill them when the employees strike. It basically comes down to the fact that they want the same amount of money people in other parts of ns are getting. I don't see that as unfair. hopefully though, it does not get to the point of a walk out.

  • Dave
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Just in case you people on the East Coast haven t noticed we are in the middle of a recession. Ontario is no longer capable of providing huge equalization payments to other provinces, and Alberta (the only have province in the country) is under attack by the Climate Warming fanatics. Its simple- the delivery of health care services in the country has to be privatized. Provincial Health Insurance can still pay the bill, but the only way to get wages under control, and offer choice to patients is to allow the the private sector to deliver lab tech, imaging, pharmacy, physio, diagnostic and if necessary full nursing services. The key point under this scenario is that the government (your taxes) still pays for your health insurance, but service delivery is from private sector companies. This is the only way rationalize out of control and out of touch public sector union wage demands (currently growing at 3 times the rate of inflation) . Failure to address this will only result in decreased services to patients (there is only so much the provincial budget can afford -you are already running a deficit in Nova Scotia, have a huge debt and have one of the highest tax rates in the country). Moreover, with the rest of the country hurting, there is no more federal transfer payments to cover out of touch public sector union wage demands. Remember its about service delivery- competition (with non union staff) will lower costs. The province can set the service delivery standards from their (new) private sector partners.

    The union compliant about equal pay with their counterparts in Halifax is nothing but noise. There are likely many factors driving the higher cost in Halifax- including: a higher cost of living, more volume of work, a shortage of skilled staff- who knows. Besides, the real issue is getting public sector unions out of the health care delivery business. Their costs are too high and , and as we all know, unsustainable.

  • stumpdummy
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    whatever they are getting paid beats farming and they can collectively hold the system hostage to gain at the very least something. Farmers need to find a way to strike, we don't get our fair share of retail pricing,

  • Troy
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Amazing,,I know a few workers at the hospital and they get paid great money,,now a strike,,,I say if that's the route they want to go,,,lock them out and get people that will appreciate the job and the great pay and let them work and tell the strikers to see next year,,now I know they wont do that ,,but that's what should be done.

  • Troy
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Well being on par like other places in the province is fine,,so if that is the case,,then when your wage goes up to par with halifax,,you should pay rent like in halifax also,,$1000 a month for a 2 bedroom,,,or a morgage for 300k like in halifax,,,You are living in the chapest place on earth to live ,,the rents are cheap ,,the houses are cheap and i dont think you realize how good you have it there,,my god out here in b.c. you cant buy an out-house for 500k,,and rents are like 1800 for a 2 bed room apt, so if your living in amherst and making a nice wage at the hospital,,you might not want to get to greedy with your strike ,,cause there are alot of people that would love to steal your job.

  • just me
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    The wage parity issue has surfaced because parity was reached 10 years or more ago and now the Government wants to take it away.

    Troy when was the last time you looked for an apartment or tried to buy a decent house in Amherst??? Real estate in Amherst is more expensive than all of the surrounding area even Moncton is cheaper.