"The 340,000 members of the National Union support the actions of these striking nurses and their fight for patient safety at Capital Health." — James Clancy, NUPGE National President.
Ottawa (01 April 2014) — Members of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU/NUPGE) employed as registered nurses at the Capital Health hospital in Halifax have been in bargaining for seven months without movement on key issues such as patient safety. Today, on April 1, workers have gone on strike in a further effort to highlight the extreme seriousness of the issue.
NSGEU/NUPGE members took nurse-to-patient ratios to the bargaining table out of concern for patient safety
"We know the commitment nursing members have to their patients, and to the community," says James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), "Their commitment to patient care is exactly why the members of our union have stuck by the issue of nurse-to-patient ratios, even in the face of such opposition by the employer." The NSGEU is one of 11 NUPGE Component unions.
"If Capital Health was concerned about patient safety, this contract would have been settled a long time ago," Clancy continued. "The 340,000 members of the National Union, many of who are health care workers themselves, support the actions of these striking nurses and their fight for patient safety at Capital Health."
Nurse-to-patient ratios are a concrete way to ensure patient safety
NSGEU/NUPGE members determined from the beginning that the major priority for bargaining would be to address the growing problem of underfunding, a shortage of nurses and increasing workloads at Capital Health. Many members voiced their concern over patient safety as a result of these working conditions and wanted to negotiate positive changes to the current health care setting.
Nurse-to-patient ratios are already in place in parts of Australia and California and have proven to be very effective in improving patient safety in these areas.
Capital Health has been uninterested in bargaining on this issue. As a result, negotiations hit an impasse with the employer refusing to negotiate the major issue identified by its workers. Conciliation and mediation have also been unsuccessful at reaching a settlement.
NSGEU/NUPGE nurses at Capital Health provided a strong strike mandate to show the employer, and the government, the serious intentions behind their bargaining proposals.
Government essential services legislation undermines collective bargaining process
Capital Health refused to complete negotiations with the union on essential services guidelines,thereby opening the door for the government to bring in legislation to regulate staffing levels. Not only will this legislation cover health care workers who are not involved in this labour dispute, such as, paramedics, ambulance dispatchers, and home support workers, but it extends to memberswho are working under the Departments of Health and Community Services, such as, child care centres.
"Instead of forcing Capital Health back to the negotiating table to bargain in good faith, the government is abusing this situation by introducing legislation designed to restrict the bargaining rights of thousands of workers, the majority of whom are not even a part of this dispute," said Clancy. "This legislation has made the situation much worse. Capital Health can now rely on the government to pass legislation that simply strengthens its inflexible postion at the bargaining table. Workers have the right to exercise their collective bargaining rights, including the right to strike, not to be undermined by governments when employer refuse to negotiate fairly."
"I'm proud of our members for taking such a bold stand in favour of patient safety, in protecting the public and for trying to improve health care delivery at Capital Health," Clancy concluded. "Our members care deeply about quality patient care and refuse to be silenced in their efforts to improve it."
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