Stephen McNeil: Essential services legislation “will not work”

February 27, 2014

NDP Labour critic Frank Corbett says the Liberal government’s handling of health care worker negotiations demonstrates Premier Stephen McNeil is more concerned with money than protecting public safety or ensuring healthcare workers have fair collective bargaining rights.

Corbett says he is surprised the Liberals are bringing forward essential services legislation given that the Premier has said in the past it doesn’t work.

On December 6, 2007 McNeil spoke out against Conservative essential services legislation saying, “I believe government wants to hold this over the heads of nurses who are in negotiations right now. Is that the kind of Nova Scotia we want? Is that the new Nova Scotia?” He went on to say, “It has been proven from one end of this country to the other – this legislation will not work.”

Corbett says the NDP will allow the Liberal legislation to go to Law Amendments so all Nova Scotians have an opportunity to tell the McNeil government how they feel about the bill. He added he wished the Premier had been more proactive on this file from the beginning.

“If Stephen McNeil was really concerned about public safety he would have called the legislature back a week ago to address the situation,” said Corbett. “Instead he’s created a crisis, leaving people who rely on homecare in a vulnerable situation while also stripping healthcare workers of their collective rights.”

Corbett also pointed to a 2007 Department of Labour report called Dispute Resolution in Healthcare and Community Services Collective Bargaining, which states, “essential services legislation may have the consequence of lengthening strikes, thereby extending the period during which the public is exposed to disruption.”

Corbett added, “My biggest concern is that the Liberal bill will create a situation where a strike continues for months or even years on end while healthcare services suffer. Today the union offered to accept arbitration and the Premier turned them down. I’m really not sure why at the 11th hour he feels his best approach is to threaten healthcare workers instead of encouraging both sides to get back to the table and use every single tool available to the government to try and settle this thing.”

“Stephen McNeil says he believes labour disputes should be settled at the bargaining table. But by his actions its clear he thinks there should only be one chair at that table and it belongs to him. I worry this is just the beginning of a lengthy period of unrest in our healthcare system,” added Corbett.