NS: Halifax registered nurses vote 90 per cent to strike

Geordon Omand for Metro Halifax
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Barring a successful outcome, NSGEU president Joan Jessome said nurses could walk off the job as early as the first week of April.

NSGEU president Joan Jessome, second from the left, counts strike ballots with fellow union members (from left) Lori Smith, Robert Chisholm and Janice Nicholson.

[HALIFAX, NS] - Registered nurses in Halifax have voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking strike action if contract negotiations with the Capital District Health Authority remain stalled.

Ninety per cent of the nearly 1,900 ballots cast over the past several weeks supported striking, the union announced on Monday.

“We’ve had nine days at the table already and … there’s been no indication from the employer that they’re going to work with us,” said Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government & General Employees Union. “We can’t bargain with ourselves, (so) right now we’re kind of at a standstill.”

NSGEU represents the 2,300 registered nurses who work in Capital Health.

Three key issues are central to the union’s bargaining position: mandated minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, a three-year-long contract and significant scheduling changes.

NSGEU and Capital Health are set to return to the bargaining table for three days of conciliation talks in mid-to-late March.

Barring a successful outcome, Jessome said nurses could walk off the job as early as the first week of April.

“We’re hoping that reaches a solution so it doesn’t come to the point of a strike,” said Capital Health spokesman John Gillis about Monday’s vote count.

Gillis said the news on Monday did not come as a surprise.

“It’s our experience through other rounds of bargaining with this local and others that a strike vote like that comes at this stage.”

But Jessome said she has little confidence in a successful outcome in March.

“There’s no will to negotiate,” she said.

Both sides continue to work out an emergency services agreement, which outline how essential services would be provided during a strike.

Gillis said it is too early to speculate on how a nursing strike would affect public services.

Organizations: Capital Health, Capital District Health Authority, Nova Scotia Government General Employees Union

Geographic location: Halifax

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