"I want to congratulate all the members who worked so hard throughout this process to support this fundamental right to choose one's union. It is a defining moment in labour history." — James Clancy, NUPGE National President
Halifax (17 March 2015) — An agreement reached with the Nova Scotia government will ensure every single acute health care worker will remain a member of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU/NUPGE). This deal is a critical victory for labour in the province, and for NSGEU/NUPGE members who have fought so hard the last year to keep their right to choose their union.
"From the very beginning, the NSGEU/NUPGE goal has been to continue to represent the members we currently represent, and we are very pleased that we have accomplished that goal," said Joan Jessome, NSGEU President. "The support and patience that has shown by our members has been so appreciated."
Victory for unions: Council of Unions created to bargain on behalf of members
The agreement affects all health care employees of all unions who are employees of the District Health Authorities and the IWK Health Centre. It resolves all the outstanding labour representation issues presented under the Health Authorities Act and ensures many of the provisions of that regressive piece of legislation will never come into force.
The key element of the deal is that as of April 1, each of the four unions — the NSGEU/NUPGE, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union (NSNU), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and Unifor — will continue to represent their members.
This is a significant victory for thousands of NSGEU/NUPGE acute health care members that the Nova Scotia government tried to force out of their union of choice. For the past year, the NSGEU/NUPGE, and more than 12,000 of its affected members, have been engaged in a year-long battle with government to ensure workers either stay with their current union, or be given the opportunity to vote. With this announcement, workers have won.
The unions will bargain collective agreements jointly within four Councils of Unions: health care, nursing, administrative professionals (clerical) and support services.
Unions suggested bargaining council eight months ago but government refused
Back in July, the unions made a proposal to do almost exactly what has been agreed upon today, with only one distinction: all parties have agreed that bargaining in each Council will be led by one union.
This means that the lead union representative will serve as Chief Negotiator and the second union representative will serve as Deputy Chief Negotiator, as follows:
- Nursing negotiations will be led by a Chief Negotiator from the NSNU, with a Deputy Chief Negotiator from the NSGEU/NUPGE.
- Health Care negotiations will be led by a Chief Negotiator from the NSGEU/NUPGE, with a Deputy Chief Negotiator from CUPE.
- Administrative professionals (formerly known as clerical) negotiations will be led by a Chief Negotiator from CUPE, with a Deputy Chief Negotiator from the NSGEU/NUPGE.
- Support services negotiations will be led by a Chief Negotiator from Unifor, with a Deputy Chief Negotiator from the NSGEU/NUPGE.
Bargaining composition will be proportional to union representation
Another key element is that the number of people from each union who will form the bargaining committees will be based on the proportion of members that each union has. For example, the NSGEU/NUPGE will have the majority of bargaining committee members for administrative professionals, health care and support and will have the second most in nursing. This will ensure issues affecting the NSGEU/NUPGE members will be addressed at every single table.
All unions will continue to represent their interests outside of collective bargaining, as well.
"We can never allow an employer to dictate union representation to workers," said James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). "I want to congratulate all the members who worked so hard throughout this process to support this fundamental right to choose one's union. It is a defining moment in labour history."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE