04/03/2014 04:59 EDT | Updated 06/02/2014 05:59 EDT

Capital Health nurses on strike

Registered nurses at the province's largest health authority have gone on strike, with the walkout expected to last about 30 hours.

Capital Health nurses are meeting at the Delta Halifax hotel on Barrington Street. They are also picketing in front of the Halifax Infirmary and the Victoria General building and plan to rally outside the provincial legislature.

"We tried everything, up to and including what we’re doing today, to try to achieve a collective agreement that addresses patient safety," said Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, which represents the 2,400 nurses.

"And neither the employer nor the government is willing to discuss that.”

The legal strike began at 7 a.m. The NSGEU says nurses will continue to fully staff certain units, such as emergency and intensive care.

The NSGEU has said there is an agreement with Capital Health on emergency service levels, but the health authority has disputed this and says the union is offering too few staff during the strike.

The union, which represents roughly 2,400 nurses, and Capital Health have not been able to agree on a new contract. A main sticking point has been a union demand for nurse-to-patient ratios, something opposed by the health district.

Earlier this week the McNeil government introduced essential services legislation for health care workers, which would force a union to negotiate with an employer what services remain in place during a strike.

Members of other unions are expected to join nurses outside the provincial legislature at 8:30 a.m. to rally against the essential services law, which is expected to be passed on Friday.