03/18/2012 05:15 EDT | Updated 05/18/2012 05:12 EDT

N.S. health care workers strike vote to be tallied, talks resume next month

HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union says services will take a hit if health care workers go on strike, but Capital Health's emergency services will still be provided.

Nearly 3,000 strike vote ballots - the strongest turnout in Local 42's history - were cast by members and will be tallied Monday afternoon.

Union president Joan Jessome said Local 42 and Capital Health will have an emergency services agreement in place in case of a strike or lockout that keeps services like emergency rooms running.

"They'll be a percentage (of workers) everywhere, but it won't be at 100 per cent, or anywhere near it," said Jessome, stressing that certain emergency and critical care units will be working at or near full capacity.

"We're hoping it won't have to go that far but (a strike) will have an impact."

Peter Graham, a spokesman for Capital Health, said the two sides will return to the bargaining table on April 3 for three days of talks.

Jessome said if the strike vote passes and a deal cannot be reached, the union will ask the conciliator to file his report and members could be on the picket lines about two weeks after that.

Talks broke down in mid-February with wages being the major stumbling block in the negotiations.

Graham said Capital Health had offered a one per cent wage increase per year for three years.

But Jessome said that's "a far cry" from what the local is looking for.

The union's 3,500 members work at Capital Health sites in the Halifax Regional Municipality and Hants County and include occupational therapists, medical lab technicians, emergency room paramedics and social workers, its website said.