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Nova Scotia health minister won't intervene as clock ticks towards strike

Nova Scotia Health Minister Maureen MacDonald at a news conference in Halifax on Thursday, March 1, 2012. MacDonald.


Nova Scotia's health minister says she has no plans to intervene to avert a potential strike Wednesday by some 3,600 health workers in Halifax.

Maureen MacDonald says she remains hopeful that talks under way with a mediator will result in an agreement.

Nova Scotia does not have essential services legislation preventing strikes in the health care sector.

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Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie says it's an option the NDP government should consider to prevent patient disruptions and a potential settlement that could prove costly to taxpayers.

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil says he supports collective bargaining and wants to see the sides settle their issues at the table.

Wages are the main issue in the contract dispute which could see picket lines set up at 6 a.m. Wednesday if no deal is reached.

Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, says the union and management are meeting with mediator Bruce Outhouse in an effort to resolve the dispute.

The Capital District Health Authority says a strike would force the cancellations of elective surgeries and outpatient services, but emergency rooms would remain open.

Ms. Jessome declined to say whether the sides are close to reaching a deal, but she added they wouldn't be at the bargaining table if there weren't some movement in the negotiations.

The workers want a 5.1 per cent raise in the first year to match an arbitrator's award for registered nurses, and cost of living increases for the remaining years of a three-year contract.

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Capital Health offered an annual one per cent pay increase for three years.

The union represents workers in a range of jobs, including nurses, occupational therapists, medical lab technicians and social workers.

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