April 25, 2019 6:04 pm
Updated: April 25, 2019 7:33 pm

Nova Scotia Health Authority backpedals on changes to overtime pay — for now

WATCH: The Nova Scotia Health Authority is reverting back to its former overtime model due to "staffing concerns" raised by changes made to how overtime is paid.

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The Nova Scotia Health Authority is going back to the way it paid out overtime prior to a change made in February, at least for the moment.

Nursing units have seen a noticeable increase in challenges with filling staff shortages over the past few months. The unions who represent nurses point the finger to the change in overtime.

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“There is a significant change in the compensation and quite frankly the nurses are saying no, I’m not coming in, giving up my Saturday, for whatever reason for straight time,” said Janet Hazelton, the president of the Nova Scotia Nurse’s Union.

In February, the NSHA began reinterpreting the language around overtime pay in the collective agreement of nurses.

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The health authority says the change in overtime interpretation was implemented in two other bargaining units in the fall with little pushback.

That wasn’t the case when the change hit nursing units.

“We certainly heard some concerns from some of our staff and managers and the unions about staffing levels and so on. So, we’ve kind of decided that given that this has been a big adjustment in the system that it would be wise for us to take a pause,” said Carmelle d’Entremont, the NSHA Vice President People and Organizational Development.

The Nova Scotia Nurse’s Union says for over a decade nurses were paid overtime for any hours worked outside of their regularly scheduled shifts.

The overtime pay is a way to encourage nurses to take on extra hours.

The reinterpretation of the language saw that change.

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Any absenteeism from a scheduled work week meant nurses would be paid regular rates for any extra shifts worked, not the overtime rate, until the number of hours missed due to the absence was made up for.

“They weren’t taking overtime because they were taking time away from their families and they weren’t getting compensated at the same rate of pay that they were before February,” Jason MacLean said, the president of the NSGEU.

The health authority says they are reverting back to the former interpretation of the language effective April 28.

It’s an issue they still want to resolve with the unions.

“We need to make sure that we have processes that encourage attendance at work and fairly compensate people for the time that they’ve worked above that,” d’Entremont said.

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D’Entremont says the overtime switch is an interim measure that will allow the health authority an opportunity to reach a resolution with the unions, as well as focus on issues surrounding retention and recruitment.

Grievances have been filed by the unions regarding the reinterpretation of overtime.

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