The Nova Scotia government has drafted legislation which protects the health, safety and well being of the public while preserving the collective bargaining process.
For further information, the following link includes:
This information is available in PDF format (Adobe Acrobat required).
Summary Report: Dispute Resolution in Healthcare and Community Services Collective Bargaining (PDF: ! File not found)
Copies of the written submissions are available by request at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phoning 902-424-2366
On May 15, 2007 the Premier asked the Minister of Labour and Workforce Development to develop a dispute resolution model which protects public health and safety while ensuring fair and free collective bargaining.
Although the Premier stated that binding arbitration is the preferred option, he has directed the Minister to be open to a compelling alternative, if one comes forward.
The information on this webpage is intended to help everyone interested in this issue to become better informed for the purpose of participating in the discussions that will take place on this important issue.
Everyone who works in the health care and community services sector including acute care, long term care and continuing care, as well as ambulance services (including air and ground transport).
There are approximately 200 collective agreements in place which cover approximately 32,000 employees who are represented by various unions.
This issue affects all Nova Scotians.
There are five statutes that regulate collective bargaining in Nova Scotia: the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act, the Highway Workers Collective Bargaining Act, the Teachers’ Collective Bargaining Act, the Corrections Act and the Trade Union Act.
Four of the statutes relate to specific employee groups: civil servants, highway workers, correctional workers, and teachers. The majority of unionized employees in the para-public (including health care employees) and private sector of Nova Scotia are covered by the Trade Union Act.
Under the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act, the Highway Workers Collective Bargaining Act and the Corrections Act, binding arbitration is the mandatory dispute resolution mechanism. There is no right to strike or lockout under these statutes.
Under the Teachers’ Collective Bargaining Act, teachers are permitted to strike on issues that are negotiated at a province wide level with the Department of Education. There is however no right to strike for issues that are negotiated locally with the school boards in the province and binding arbitration is the dispute resolution mechanism.
With respect to the Trade Union Act, there is a right to strike or lockout, except for police officers and firefighters, who must go to binding arbitration.
Since 1969, when tracking was started by the Department of Labour, there have been approximately 100 work stoppages in the health and community services sectors.
There have been 20 strikes since 1997; 15 legal and 5 illegal.
Several options exist to assist the union and the employer once they have reached an impasse in their face-to-face bargaining. These processes are summarized below:
(Note: In the recent strike at the IWK Health Centre, the union and employer agreed to a form of binding mediation to resolve the dispute)
“Binding Arbitration” (as distinguished from rights or grievance arbitration) is a tool used to resolve collective bargaining disputes whereby a neutral third party renders a decision which is binding on the union and the employer. The new collective agreement will then include the issues agreed to between the parties, together with the issues resolved by the Arbitrator’s decision.
Binding arbitration may be conducted by a sole arbitrator chosen by the union and employer or alternatively, may be conducted by a Board of three persons in which the union and employer may nominate their representative to the Board.
Under this model, strikes and lockouts are prohibited. Binding arbitration is also known as interest arbitration.
Binding arbitration is currently not mandatory under the Trade Union Act except for firefighters and police officers. It is mandatory, however, under the other four statutes that regulate collective bargaining for highway workers, correctional workers, civil servants and teachers (local bargaining).
In addition, contract negotiations between doctors and the Department of Health are settled by binding arbitration when an impasse results (as required by the Canada Health Act)
Three provinces (Ontario, Alberta and PEI) as well as the federal government have legislation prohibiting the right to strike or lockout and binding arbitration is mandatory in the healthcare sector when the union and employer are unable to reach a negotiated settlement on their own.. In Ontario, this applies to hospitals and homes for the aged. In Alberta, this applies to hospitals and employees under the Regional Health Authorities. In PEI this applies more broadly.
In Alberta, the Government may also declare a strike a public emergency when the health and safety of the public are at risk and force the parties to binding arbitration to resolve the dispute.
Nova Scotia is one of two jurisdictions in Canada where employees in the health care sector have a right to strike or lockout without some kind of essential services limitation set out in legislation. Every province except Saskatchewan, has laws that either substitute the right to strike/lockout with binding arbitration or restrict the right to strike/lockout by requiring the provision of “essential services”.
Under an essential services model, a staffing level is established to ensure an adequate level of services are maintained, while workers take part in a work stoppage in order to resolve their bargaining disputes. In other words, when strikes are permitted, essential service provisions compel the union to provide a certain level of emergency service during a strike.
No, there is currently no essential services legislation in this province.
Unions and employers may, however, agree to negotiate some form of “essential services” prior to a work stoppage to ensure that a minimum level of service is provided.
All provinces with the right to strike in the health care sectors have essential services legislation, except Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.
Ontario also has essential services legislation, an essential services agreement must be negotiated for ambulance services prior to a strike.
The nature of “essential services” provisions and the process to determine the level of service varies by jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions (for example, British Columbia and New Brunswick), the union and employer first attempt to negotiate an essential services plan by designating which employees will stay on the job during a strike. If the union and employer cannot agree, an independent third party decides (Labour Relations Board or Arbitrator). In other provinces, (Manitoba and Newfoundland), the employer designates “essential”employees and if the union disagrees, it appeals to the Labour Relations Board . In Quebec, the law fixes a percentage range as “essential” depending on the type of healthcare institution.