Halifax—When the Nova Scotia legislature reconvenes on Friday the government will introduce legislation to deal with the home support workers’ strike that is set to begin on Friday. While we don’t have the details of the legislation, we want to caution against interfering in the collective bargaining process in this way.
The legislation will impose a so-called “essential services” provision that, to all intents and purposes, amounts to removing these workers’ right to strike. If enough employees are forced to work, then a strike is rendered meaningless.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-NS has published several reports about the importance of free and fair collective bargaining that must include the right to strike. These are written by Judy and Larry Haiven, recognized experts in this area. Judy Haiven Associate Professor at Saint Mary’s University warns: "Collective bargaining is the most effective way of bringing crucial issues of patient care to the public's attention. Crippling the right to strike just shoves them back underground."
Further, as Professor of Management at Saint Mary’s University, Larry Haiven cautions: "If there were a different way than free collective bargaining to achieve workplace justice, then we would have discovered it by now. By removing the strike threat, the government is saying to health care workers 'We're not interested in your issues. Just put your heads down and don't complain.’”
For many people, home support workers are what allow Nova Scotians to remain in their homes and out of expensive nursing homes or hospitals. The province can’t afford to lose these workers. Indeed, it is critical that these workers are better supported in the work that they do and that others are encouraged to do this work. This is difficult work with high injury rates, and long hours. These workers might be entering eight different worksites in one day. Too many of these workers are without guaranteed hours and without full benefits. Home support workers are a critical part of the health care landscape in Nova Scotia and they deserve better at the bargaining table and beyond.
For more information, or to arrange interviews, contact CCPA-NS Director, Christine Saulnier at (902) 240-0926 or via email [email protected], or call Larry Haiven directly at (902) 240-2782.
These reports can be found here:
- A Tale of two Provinces: Alberta and Nova Scotia argues that strikes happen whether they are legal or not, and, like in Alberta, when they are made illegal they often grow in frequency.
- Health Care Strikes: Pulling the Red Cord argues that if politicians and health care administrators insist on running a system so low on resources that it cannot handle any labour disputes, then the ability of workers to strike, to pull the red cord as it were, is an essential system mechanism to ensure quality of care in the long run.
- Is Compulsory Arbitration a Good Substitute for the Right to Strike in Health Care deals with several of the most intractable problems in health care collective bargaining that make withdrawal of the right to strike especially harmful to the health care system.
- The Right to Strike and the Provision of Emergency Services in Canadian Health Care observes that striking health care workers always arrange to provide emergency services during work stoppages. The authors conclude that voluntarism, rather than coercion, is the way to handle the issue.
The CCPA-NS is an independent, non-partisan research institute concerned with issues of social and economic justice, as well as environmental sustainability.