05/22/2014 11:08 EDT | Updated 07/22/2014 05:59 EDT

Halifax nurses suspended for walking off job before legal strike position: union

HALIFAX - The majority of nurses who walked off the job illegally last month at Halifax area hospitals will receive disciplinary suspensions, a health official said Thursday.

Bruce English of the Capital District Health Authority said the move could affect 175 nurses as meetings are conducted over the next week or more.

"A number of these (nurses) are going to get suspensions because they are warranted," said English.

He said not all of the nurses involved would get suspensions, but the majority would.

English wouldn't reveal the length of the disciplinary action, but said it be implemented gradually and primarily during the summer months when hospital operations are reduced.

He said replacement nurses would be available to cover the shifts of suspended employees.

Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, said between 150 and 200 nurses were being handed two-day suspensions.

"We've been told that it would be consistent across the board for all nurses that are suspended," said Jessome.

The first of the nurses involved were being informed in meetings Thursday, she said.

Jessome called the move heavy-handed and said the union would file grievances in each case.

"We didn't shy away from the fact there could be discipline," she said. "But two-day suspensions when the employer is over there talking about building bridges?"

The health authority conducted meetings with the nurses last month to have them explain their actions.

The Nova Scotia Labour Board issued a cease-and-desist order on April 1 after some nurses did not report for their shifts earlier that day.

The walkout forced the cancellation of dozens of surgeries as tensions rose ahead of a legal strike that was ended by essential-services legislation three days later.