Nurses at Nova Scotia’s largest health authority are ready to defy back-to-work legislation, the president of their union said Monday after mediated talks with their employer broke down.
Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, said the nurses will go on strike if Stephen McNeil’s Liberal government brings in such a law.
“If they bring in legislation, there will be a strike,” Jessome said, adding that the nurses are prepared to hit the picket lines before they are in a legal strike position April 3.
“If legislation were to come in tomorrow, there would be a strike tomorrow.”
Mediated talks between the union, which represents about 2,400 registered nurses, and the Capital District Health Authority reached an impasse Sunday evening.
McNeil wasn’t available for comment Monday, but he has said back-to-work legislation is a possibility in the nurses’ labour dispute.
Earlier this month, 420 striking home-care workers were ordered back to work after the province passed essential service legislation.
Jessome said she hopes a negotiated solution can be reached by April 3, but is losing confidence that the government will compromise on the union’s request to hire more nurses.
The union has said it wants nurse-to-patient ratios, something it says would improve patient safety. But Capital Health says there is no evidence that shows mandated registered nurse-to-patient ratios guarantee improved patient safety.
Kathy MacNeil, vice-president for people services at Capital Health, said the health authority is worried about the possibility of an illegal strike occurring before the hospitals have an emergency plan in place.
“If something happened unexpectedly like an illegal work stoppage, it would have some serious impacts on our ability to receive patients from other parts of the province and other parts of the Maritimes,” MacNeil said.