Health Authorities and the IWK Health Centre Taking Common Approach to Collective Bargaining in 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 1:01pm

Nova Scotia's nine district health authorities and the IWK Heath Centre are taking a common approach to collective bargaining, to ensure that the province’s health care system remains affordable. Negotiating new collective agreements presents a huge challenge for the districts and IWK, as they work to bring costs under control and reduce their budgets by three per cent.

In all, there are 50 collective agreements between unions and the districts and IWK, and bargaining for all of them is to begin this year. On February 6, Capital Health and NSGEU (Local 42 – Healthcare) began collective bargaining, with the exchange of proposals. Bargaining dates are set for February 14, 15 and 16.

“Often what happens at one particular bargaining table is disconnected from the rest of the system,” said Blaise MacNeil, CEO of South West Health, speaking on behalf of all of the districts and IWK. “What we are saying is that there is an impact, and we can no longer afford for each district health authority and the IWK Health Centre to bargain in isolation. Nova Scotians expect us to act like a system and we are.”

The many separate agreements have resulted in different bargaining outcomes between different employee groups, impacting how health care staff are managed and paid and how health care is delivered in Nova Scotia. The result has been inequalities among employees and inefficiencies in service.

The new approach to bargaining – which will see the districts and IWK bring forward a common set of proposals – is part of a larger effort to reduce costs, find efficiencies and improve the delivery of health care services across the districts and IWK. Over the past two years, the districts and IWK have reduced their administrative costs to 5.1%, now below the national average of 5.2%. Along with the provincial government, they are working to further reduce the costs of administration and support services through a shared services initiative. And, as part of the districts and IWK business planning this year, they are continuing to identify ways to deliver care more efficiently and reduce duplication.

“Because of the fiscal situation in this province and country, we need to look at the bigger picture and ask ourselves what can Nova Scotians afford,” said MacNeil.

In response to public comments from NSGEU regarding wage increases, MacNeil said, “Nova Scotian taxpayers cannot afford a 5.1% increase across the district health authorities and the IWK. This is simply not sustainable.”

Compensation, including wages, represents approximately 70% of the districts/IWK operational costs. An estimated increase of 5.1% for the districts and IWK would add in excess of $42M to their annual operating costs.

“None of us can ignore the reality that we must reduce costs – we all have a responsibility to do what we can,” said MacNeil. “Our challenge will be to find a balance between respecting the commitment and contributions our employees make to patient care, and finding new and more cost effective ways to work together and deliver care.”

Through bargaining, the districts and IWK are looking to the provincial health care unions (NSGEU, CAW, CUPE, NSNU) to be partners in helping to create a more affordable health care system.           

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For more information:

Marketing and Communications, Capital Health, 902-458-5376 (pager)

Fraser Mooney, South West Health, 902-749-0517

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