NSGEU health admin members ready to walk, employer drags feet on essential services 

September 18 2023

Thousands of administrative professionals working in the health care system throughout Nova Scotia are gearing up to hit the picket lines, as their employers continue to drag their feet on bargaining and hide behind anti-union legislation. 

Representatives of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU/NUPGE) met with representatives from Nova Scotia Health and the Health Association of Nova Scotia on September 14 for yet another frustrating attempt to conclude an essential services agreement, as is required by the Health Authorities Act. This legislation was passed by Stephen McNeil’s government in a blatant attempt to diminish the effectiveness of a strike, as is evidenced now by these employers using it as a shield to prevent job action.

Lowest-paid workers left behind by Nova Scotia gov’t

“Tim Houston’s government may not have written this legislation, but he helped pass it, and he is clearly allowing these employers to exploit it — and these workers — who are just trying to achieve a fair collective agreement,” said Sandra Mullen, NSGEU President. 

“These hard-working professionals now have a contract that expired almost 3 years ago. The employer and government have offered these workers a deal that amounts to a wage decrease, while other groups of health care workers have been offered much more,” Mullen continued.  

Admin workers are key to health care system

Administrative professionals working for the NSH and IWK are represented by CUPE, the NSGEU, and Unifor, who bargain together in the Council of Unions have been trying to conclude a fair collective agreement since October 2022. Members rejected a tentative agreement brought forward in April 2023, then gave the unions a strong strike mandate in June. Once an essential services plan is in place and the required 2-week notice period has elapsed, thousands of health care workers across the province will be in a legal strike position. 

There are more than 5,000 administrative professionals — approximately 85% of them are women — working in hospitals and community care settings throughout Nova Scotia, performing critical tasks. They are the first point of contact with patients,. They manage registrations, control the switchboard and communications, ensure test labels are accurate, assign beds, share lab results with clinical staff, book appointments, transfers and admissions, and order and receive supplies, manage payroll, and much more. Without these professionals and their labour, health care doesn’t work, and it’s time the employer and government returned to the table to offer a deal that acknowledges that.