02/26/2015 01:15 EST | Updated 04/28/2015 05:59 EDT

Minister says legislation for Nova Scotia health merger not under deadline

HALIFAX - Legislation settling which unions will represent workers in Nova Scotia's health sector likely won't be ready by a deadline set for the merger of the province's health authorities, the health minister said Thursday.

Leo Glavine said the legislation aimed at trimming health sector bargaining units to four from 50 will likely be the first item dealt with after the legislature convenes for its spring sitting on March 26.

Glavine said there are no plans to recall the house early in order to ensure the bill will be ready for the amalgamation of 10 health boards into two, which is set to occur April 1.

"The legislation is not constructed yet, but that will be done over the next few weeks," said Glavine.

The government had previously said it wanted the issue around which unions represent nurses, clerical and support staff settled by the merger deadline.

But that was before the government dismissed arbitrator James Dorsey, who last Friday issued a decision settling only one of the four bargaining units.

In the meantime, Glavine said the government wouldn't be opposed to a deal with the unions, if possible. He said the lines of communication would remain open between the Health Department and union officials.

"That (a deal) is always a possibility," Glavine said. "But that would then transfer ... into legislation."

The government has said shrinking the number of bargaining units will streamline health contract talks and break a steady cycle of contract negotiations.

The move will affect 24,000 workers in the health-care sector currently represented by the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, the Nova Scotia Nurses Union, Unifor and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.