April 24, 2014 10:38 am

Merger of provincial health boards could shift N.S. labour relations

HALIFAX – In less than a year, health care in Nova Scotia will look very different as the province’s 10 district health authorities are pared down to two — one for the province and another for the IWK Health Centre.

The reduction is part of a Liberal Party election promise to cut down on wasteful health care spending in the province. A transition team is already in place and will be developing a merger plan over the next six months.

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“Our task will be to develop a vision, the goals for the new health authority and also look at what the new design will be,” said Patrick Lee, the leader of the transition team.

With the team’s work  just getting underway, Lee said he couldn’t reveal much about what the final structure will look like, but the province’s health minister said it will be more streamlined, with less management.

“They will work with the current CEOs, the vice-presidents, directors, that whole management group, because there will be eight fewer CEOs and fewer vice-presidents when this new structure is in place,” said Leo Glavine.

Glavine said the new structure will also have strong implications for labour unions.

“Could it have an impact on unions? Yes, the possibility of runoff votes is very real,” he said.

Currently, four unions represent more than 20,000 health care employees in Nova Scotia. The merger could potentially lead to the amalgamation of some of their jurisdictions. Nova Scotia is the only province left with two separate nurses’ unions, and a run-off vote could change that.

“The possibility does exist that in a run-off vote any particular union could lose a lot [or all] of its members,” said Larry Haiven, a professor of management at Saint Mary’s University.

Haiven, who’s been involved in health district amalgamations in Alberta and Ontario, says such a reorganization of labour relations could also have an impact on collective agreements.

“That would create quite a bit of chaos for quite a while as the unions try to sort it out,” he said.

The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour says it hopes to avoid any major issues.

Rick Clarke, the federation’s president, has sent letters — signed by leaders of CUPE, the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union (NSNU), the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) and Unifor, who hope the unions remain intact through the transition — to the premier and health minister asking for a meeting.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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