The province introduced a bill today, March 31, to guarantee essential care for Nova Scotians during a strike or lockout affecting health care, homes for seniors, youth, or people with special needs.
The Essential Health and Community Services Act requires unions and employers to have an essential services agreement in place before job action is taken. If they cannot reach an agreement, an independent third party decides.
Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada without this type of essential services legislation.
“Like all Canadians, Nova Scotians deserve to know their health and safety won’t be in jeopardy during a labour disruption,” said Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan. “Government also values the critical work of employees who care for people who are sick, older, or have special needs. This legislation also protects the right to strike once an essential services agreement is in place.”
Essential service is based on the risk of death or serious health consequences if the service is not provided. These include services critical to mental or physical health.
Unions and employers affected by the legislation include those for:
— homes for seniors, the disabled or youth
— 911 operators
The legislation takes effect as soon as it is passed, and does not expire.
The parties can request conciliation or mediation to help negotiate an essential services agreement. If they can’t agree on essential services, or fail to negotiate, either party can apply to the labour board. The legislation ensures the process happens quickly.
“Most employers and unions reach collective agreements without strikes or lockouts, but even the possibility of a labour disruption can create stress and confusion,” said Ms. Regan. “This bill gives certainty to people who need and provide care, and ensures essential services must be provided in the event of a strike or lockout.”
Employers or unions that take job action before an essential services agreement is in place can be fined $100,000 for the first day, and $10,000 for each additional day. People can be fined $1,000 for the first day, and $200 for each additional day.
For more information, go to http://novascotia.ca/essentialservices/ .