02/20/2015 04:00 EST | Updated 04/21/2015 05:59 EDT

New law coming to determine health care union representation in Nova Scotia

HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia government will introduce legislation to decide which unions will represent nurses, clerical and support staff in the health-care system after an arbitrator failed to resolve the matter, Health Minister Leo Glavine said Friday.

James Dorsey released a report Friday that recommended representation for only two of the four bargaining units being created under legislation passed last fall that amalgamates the province's health authorities on April 1.

Dorsey's 96-page decision recommended that the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union represent clerical and health-care workers. But he did not assign a union to represent nurses and support staff.

Glavine said the government will only allow that union to represent health-care workers and legislation will be brought in to determine which unions will represent all of the remaining workers.

"This is not a clear arbitration," Glavine said. "We know that arbitration brings final decisions and we don't have final decisions in this report and that's the disappointing part."

The government wants to cut the number of bargaining units from 50 to four once the province's 10 health authorities are reduced to two. The move, which will affect 24,000 workers in the health-care system, will streamline health contract negotiations, Glavine has said.

The question over which unions will represent which workers has divided the four unions that now represent all unionized workers in the health sector: the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, the Nova Scotia Nurses Union, Unifor and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

CUPE president Danny Cavanagh said the implementation of Dorsey's recommendations would have meant the loss of 2,500 members for his union.

Still, he said while the government's intention to introduce legislation may be a temporary reprieve, he is not pleased.

"You can view this as a lifeline so to speak, but who knows what they are going to do?" he said. "Can I trust what they are going to do? ... I don't think so."

The legislature is scheduled to reconvene March 26, a week before the health authority amalgamation is to take effect.

Glavine couldn't say whether the legislature would be called back early to introduce the legislation.

Dorsey's work cost the province about $200,000, the government said.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Dorsey recommended representation for one of the four bargaining units.