Nurses protest against the introduction of the Essential Health and Community Services Act outside the legislature in the city of Halifax on Tuesday, April 1, 2014.
Photo Credit: Andrew Vaughan/CP

Concerned by patient safety, faced with government legislation, nurses walk off the job

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Nurses in Canada’s Atlantic coast province of Nova Scotia walked off the job on Tuesday (April 1) in an illegal strike after the province’s government introduced essential services legislation late Monday. The illegal strike was called two days ahead of a planned legal strike on Thursday.

The nurses walked off in the morning, some picketing outside the provincial legislature. Hours later, the union informed members that the province’s Labour Board had ordered employees who are members of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees’ Union (NSGEU), Local 97 to return to work.

NSGEU president Joan Jessome called on nurses “to comply with the Labour Board order and report to their next scheduled shift,” but she added: “This does not mean our fight is over! We are still picketing at the legislature to protest this tomorrow. If you are not scheduled to work, please come and join us!”

One of the key demands of the nurses is an increase in nurse-to-patient ratio.

“There’s strong evidence that shows the hospital mortality rate is linked directly to nurse staffing,’” union president Jessome said last week.

According to the union “Patients in Halifax hospitals have been dying at one of the highest rates in the country.”

More information:
Globe and Mail – Nova Scotia introduces essential services bill as nurses prepare to go on strike – here
NSGEU – Nurses Protest Essential Service Legislation – here
CBC News – Heart surgeries cancelled over Halifax nurses strike – here
NSGEU – Nurses Put Patient Safety First campaign – here
NSGEU Local 97 – NSGEU Calls for Capital Health to Address Mortality Rate – here

Update April 3, 2014: With the legal right to strike on Thursday, April 3, nurses went off the job and picketed, continuing to emphasize “Safety in Numbers” – the issue of sufficient nurses to take care of patients. See this video of nurses shouting “We’re fired up. We can’t take it any more.”  youtu.be/vxjWqxnUnBk

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