McNeil satisfied with agreement for N.S. health care workers

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil speaks to the media about the decision to close hospitals in Cape Breton. Jeremy Keefe / Global News

An arbitrated agreement that has resulted in a new collective agreement for 6,500 employees in the health care bargaining unit at the Nova Scotia Health Authority and IWK Children’s Hospital has the endorsement of Premier Stephen McNeil.

The award by William Kaplan announced Wednesday, came after five days of mediation-arbitration last week and concluded a process that began in October, 2016.

The process has seen 19 separate agreements reduced to two agreements for this group of employees.

McNeil said Thursday he was pleased with the outcome.

“We’ve lived within the financial framework that we have … we have a six-year deal which is two years longer than we originally had which is a positive thing.”

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Specifically, McNeil said he was satisfied the agreement keeps the wage pattern that was set through legislation enacted last year (Bill 148) that limits wage increases to three per cent over four years and eliminated the long-service award retirement payment.

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The new contract adds two years with two per cent increases in each year, while Kaplan also replaced the long-service award with a new benefit – the employee retention incentive – which will see permanent employees with 25 years of service get a 3.5 per cent wage increase.

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McNeil was asked whether the new incentive would be any more expensive than the retirement bonus.

“Not even close,” he said. “There are roughly about 100 people that would benefit from that, I think it’s roughly $160,000. The long-service award across the entire public sector is $44-million a year.”

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The health care bargaining unit represents health care providers other than nurses, such as medical lab technologists, physiotherapists, social workers and pharmacists, among others.

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The collective agreements take effect Oct. 8 and cover the period between Nov. 1, 2014, and Oct. 31, 2020.

Mediation-arbitration is to begin this fall for three remaining bargaining units representing support staff, administrative professionals and nurses.

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