New agreement for N.S. health-care workers includes retention incentive, retirement allowance

A new collective agreement for 6,500 health-care employees in Nova Scotia includes a new employee retention incentive and the option to take a payout from a long-service retirement allowance.

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union said mediator-arbitrator William Kaplan also awarded increased shift premiums for employees in the health-care bargaining unit at the Nova Scotia Health Authority and IWK Children’s Hospital.

The new new six-year agreement introduces an employee retention incentive that sees employees with 25 years of service get a 3.5 per cent wage increase. It also includes the legislated wage increase of three per cent over four years, followed by increases of two per cent in each of the final two years.

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The long-service retirement allowance was also part of arbitration, according to Jason MacLean, president of the union. The allowance was frozen in 2015, but the union argued it was the members’ money and it was unconstitutional to change a collective agreement via legislation, he says. The union argued successfully in arbitration that the allowance should be paid out to all the civil servants, says MacLean.

According to the collective agreement, employees have an option to obtain an early payout of their retirement allowance accrued until March 31, 2015, at their salary level as of Oct. 31, 2017. Employees will have to opt-in to the early payout option, however, and let their employer know within a month of notice of eligibility. The payout is equal to one week’s pay for each year of service to a maximum of 26 years.

The new agreement also includes a 50-cent per hour wage increase over the next three years to the current hourly premium rate which is added when employees work evenings, overnights or weekends. The bump includes an immediate 15-cent increase, to be followed by another 15-cent increase on Aug. 1, 2019, and 20-cents on Oct. 31, 2020.

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The union noted as a result of provincial legislation (Bill 148) that set a wage pattern for civil servants and health workers, the shift premiums are one of the few monetary issues that could be negotiated during the current round of bargaining.

The process, which has seen 19 separate agreements reduced to two agreements for this group of employees, resulted in a collective agreement that takes effect Oct. 8 and runs from Nov. 1, 2014, to Oct. 31, 2020.

Mediation-arbitration is to begin this fall for three remaining bargaining units representing support staff, administrative professionals and nurses.