Province needs to intervene to avert strike: Casey

Staff ~ The Amherst News
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HALIFAX - Provincial Progressive Conservative Leader Karen Casey is calling on the province to get involved in ending an impasse between its health authorities and their unionized employees.
Casey wants the government to consider the impact a hospital workers' strike could have on the delivery of health care, citing plans within the Cumberland district to close emergency rooms and scale back services.
"If Nova Scotians are facing extended wait times due to the possibility of having thousands of hospital staff off the job, what will happen to our health care system if strike action does in fact take place?" Casey said.
The Tory leader is urging both sides to go back to the table and use the start of a new year as an opportunity to come to a resolution. She also wants Premier Darrell Dexter to reconvene cabinet as soon as possible to discuss the matter.
Deputy Premier Frank Corbett told reporters Tuesday that the government is sticking to its offer of one per cent, adding it is no position to boost salaries since it's saddled with a deficit of almost $600 million.
As many as 4,100 hospital workers outside the Capital District Health Authority, including 300 in Cumberland County, could hit the picket line as early as Monday after voting last month to take strike action to back up their demands, foremost of which is wage parity with their counterparts in Halifax.
The union is asking for 2.9 per cent to match the increase given to Halifax health care workers last year.
Union spokesperson Wayne Thomas said late last week that there are no talks planned prior to Monday's strike date and while hospital workers don't want to strike, they may be forced to because the province's stance goes against the principle of wage parity.
Cumberland health authority spokesperson Ann Keddy recently said contingency plans are being finalized that will see most non-emergency services scaled back, with the emergency room at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre being the only emergency room open during the work stoppage.
At the same time as health care workers are gearing up for a possible strike, unionized school board support staff will also be in a similar position soon.

Organizations: Cumberland, Tory, Capital District Health Authority

Geographic location: HALIFAX, Cumberland County

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Recent comments

  • greg
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Wow Jennifer! That was quite a mouthful! Unfortunately your logic escapes me. Sure, the cost of living is increasing ... but it's increasing for everyone, and many non-unionized workers are not getting increases for the simple reasons that the companies the work for cannot afford them. The fact that the government is running a defecit means we cannot afford it, but you will have them demand the raises anyway, and put the healtcare of the population in jeopardy? You are speaking of the marginal increases in costs of basic items, but the majority of the workers involved in this dispute already earn well above the average wages for this area.

    There is no doubt in my mind that the gov't will cave and give them what they are asking for ... they already have a pretty good track record of doing that over the past few months. But realistically, when times are tough, we should all understand that we may have to stretch what we have until things improve, whether we are part of a union or not. Unfortunately, this concept is foreign to pretty much every labour union that does business with the government.

  • Jennifer
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Wow Ashley!
    When your power bill fees increase, you need to pay them, when your cable and phone fees increase, you pay them, when your smokes cost more you pay, groceries cost more - you pay. Don't you think people's income levels need to increase to allow for these cost-of-living increases?
    AND, is this decision coming from the same NS Gov't that is spending $90 Million on land? Who's needs are they looking out for? Certainly not the people that have one of the most stressful places to work in and put their own lives at risk working with sick people every day.
    And you want to just fire these people out of spite? Then they would be a further drain on EI and then possibly welfare. Common sense? Or I suppose they could go work at Timmie's and get you your coffee and donuts...
    I think it is obvious here who needs to grow up.

  • colin
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    No increases for anyone other than mininum wage earners, those forced on social assistance and Seniors

  • uninformed
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    If people are going to makes comments like ashley above, at least make them intelligent - hopsital employees deserve to make the same amount of money no matter what hospital they work at - doing the same job - you make is sound like hospital employees are stomping their feet like children - talks have been ongoing and if you want to make a comment at least be informed before you make them. It's the arrogance of the Government that is so frustrating - they won't pay valuable employees what they deserve yet they are masters at wasting our tax dollars....

  • just me
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I think what most of you are missing is the fact that these healthcare workers have had wage parity province wide for over 10 years and now they are no longer worthy of the same money?? I suppose all of you would just say thank you to your employer if they decided to give your coworker a raise but not you, I think not

  • greg
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Oh Uninformed Public, how I wish I had your post before I hit submit ...

    ... It is unbelievable that you feel that hospital workers should make the same amount of money regardless of where they work. That's absurd! The amount of money any person gets paid for what they do needs to be driven by economic market forces ... supply and demand. Many jobs have big salary differences depending on whether you live in a city versus a rural community. As an accountant, I can tell you that I could make much more money doing what I do in the city than I do here. The dynamics of the job are different, the quality of life is different and the work culture is different ... why do you feel the pay needs to be the same. It always amazes me that people strive to get a job where they are well paid, and once they do they then turn around and claim they should be making more as if there is a sense of entitlement.

    I have spoken very a number of hospital employees who think this whole thing is ridiculous, and are upset that they will have to strike for something they don't believe in, and in the end, will be no further ahead. Anything they do end up gaining will have already been lost in strike pay!

  • Ben
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Maybe wage parity makes sense and maybe it doesn't, however if it makes sense for some then it must make sense for everyone...seems reasonable. The issue with health care is much bigger than who gets 2.9% and who gets 1.0%, at the end of the day, the difference isn't going to be enough to save a system which is lousy with white collar workers and consultants making huge salaries who have little or no impact on the quality of patient care. Give them their raise and cut some of the fat out of the administration.

  • Jennifer
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    WTH: You are very good at reading too much into what I am saying - or what you think I am saying.

    Jobs are not so easy to get but having an education certainly helps.

    And me being callous to blame -nope you are wrong there too. I was not blaming anyone for anything. In order to get into any union one needs a specialized skill, training, education, etc. If a non-union person wants that they need to take the steps down the path to get there. A union is not going to go door-to-door and ask is people want to join it and get a better paying job, the people have to go after it by making themselves more attractive.

    I hope you are not referring to me with your last sentence because I do not and never did belong to a union. But I've got a great education and career... but I had to leave Amherst to get it.

  • WTH?
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Jennifer take a look at the job postings. It doesn't matter how much education or experience a job seeker has if the job is restricted to union members only, as is the case with a vast number of these high paying jobs that you make sound so easy to get.

    It seems incredibly callous to blame the lower paid non-union workers for their own predicament when the unions have restricted access to outsiders for many of the better paying jobs. But, I guess it's pretty easy to take a higher view of one's worth when you've got a powerful union selling you on the notion that your work is worth so much more than everyone else's.

  • Jennifer
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Yes Greg, the majority of the workers involved in this dispute do earn more than the area's average wage - they should - they are more educated than the average person in the area as well. They have to meet certain education / training requirements in order to compete for those jobs, therefore they should have a higher compensation!
    Maybe the non-unionized workers should get better educated, thus enabling them to move to a higher paying career.

    Take a look around you and factor into the equation the mean wage and what sector it comes from. Service? Minimum wage? Big Deal! I do not think it is fair to make that comparison.

    Change: I can see your point, but instead of hitting the front line workers, decrease the top 15% earners by 10% of their wages.

  • Change is needed!
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Tough times call for tough decisions!

    The government is broke and everyone wants more money or at least parity with each other around the province. I totally agree with paying the same amount for the same job.

    Instead of giving everyone a raise who wants parity, why doesn't the government put forth legislation to scale back salaries for all their workers across the province, including themselves, civil servants, hospital staff, teaching staff, etc, etc.

    Reducing ALL government salaries by 2% - 3% would save the province tens of millions of dollars in salary, maybe a few hundred million in salary, and everyone working in a certain government sectors would get paid the same going forward.

    Hospital staff in HRM would get the same as those here, teachers aids would get the same as teachers aids around the province.

    Surely those with nice government jobs, who get paid by the taxpayers, wouldn't mind taking a little bit less for the good of our province.

    While the government is at it, they could add a payrole surtax to business so everyone does their part.

    Also, reduce assistance paid out to others and stop giving these bonuses.

    Whatever happens, something has to be done. Not everyone will like it, nor will everyone like these comments!

  • WTH?
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    BRAVO Greg! Your comments are right on the money! (pardon the pun)

  • Ashley
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    who doesn't want more money at there job? It doesn't seem like a good reason to walk off of the job and leave a ton of ppeople wondering what there going to do if they or there children get sick. Its hard enough right now to see a doctor so lets go on strike and see what happens and at this time of year!! WOW!! I think some people need to grow up and realize just because you want more money doesn't mean its going to happen. How will this affect our aging opopulation and our children? And they said that the workers don't want to strike? HA well they must if there in agreement with it....its just a bold face lie to cover there butts! If they strike then maybe we should just fire all of them and then see how much money they make!