04/27/2012 01:35 EDT | Updated 06/27/2012 05:12 EDT

Hospital workers in Halifax vote in favour of tentative contract deal

HALIFAX - A tentative deal aimed at averting a strike by some 3,600 hospital workers in the Halifax area was ratified by the union membership Friday.

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union said on its website that 90 per cent of the membership who voted approved the deal.

Under the deal, a board of arbitration will have to come up with pay increases that range between 6.5 per cent and nine per cent over three years.

The contract says a final decision should be made by June 15.

Deputy premier Frank Corbett said he was relieved that the union accepted the deal.

"I'm very relieved and happy for the workers and indeed the patients and all Nova Scotians," said Corbett.

He said the government was ready to consider some form of back-to-work legislation had the deal been rejected.

"The government would put itself in a position to respond to that, yes," he said.

The deal was reached Wednesday just hours ahead of a 7 a.m. strike deadline for Thursday.

The threat of a strike had prompted the cancellation of hundreds of elective surgeries and appointments while nearly 200 beds were closed.

The Capital District Health Authority said following the vote that it would return to normal service operations by Monday.

Members of the union work in over 250 different roles, including lab technicians, social workers, occupational therapists and some nurses.

They had been asking for a wage increase of 5.1 per cent to match a raise given to some nurses last year.

Premier Darrell Dexter has said he won't reveal how much the arbitrated settlement might cost provincial taxpayers until the final decision is made in June.