Not all nurses will see wage increase

HALIFAX: Although some Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) will see a wage increase, it will not be the case for others across the province.

After a six-year struggle, it was announced last week that LPNs who worked at former Central District Health Authority (CDHA) locations will receive a 12 per cent pay increase, retroactive back to March 17, 2014.

Arbitrator Lorraine Lafferty issued a consent award that concluded a long-standing classification review of the LPNs who worked in former CDHA positions represented by the Nova Scotia General Employees Union (NSGEU).

NSGEU President Jason MacLean said the award is significant and important.

“We are thrilled that this long process has finally concluded with a significant wage increase retroactive to 2014,” MacLean said. “The union and a very committed group of LPNs would not give up. In the end, this is a very important victory for Licensed Practical Nurses and begins to show respect for the expanded roles they play in our health care system.”

The award only applies to NSGEU LPNs who worked in locations that fall under the jurisdiction of the former CDHA. That is because the original request for a review was filed under their collective agreement back in 2014. That collective agreement was the only one that allowed for the Joint Job Evaluation process.

The award also ensures any NSGEU LPN who worked for the former CDHA – including anyone who resigned, retired or took a position with another health authority or employer – will receive retro pay in the amount of 12 per cent back to March 17, 2014, provided they apply in writing to the NSHA within 30 days of the award date.

The award will also be pensionable. This means those affected LPNs enrolled in CDHA pension plans since 2014 will see improvements in their pensions now or at the time of their retirement.

In response, the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union (NSNU) announced it is seeking immediate action and full compensation for all LPNs in the province, regardless of where they work.

Thousands of LPNs represented by four health care unions, including the NSGEU, were not included in the arbitrated award.

“This is a great first step in the right direction,” said Janet Hazelton, president of the NSNU. “LPNs deserve to have their hard work acknowledged and fairly compensated. The next step is to appreciate that all LPNs, in all sectors are working just as hard and are equally deserving.”

Hazelton says that while the award is very important and gives full credit to the NSGEU for opening this door, LPNs across Nova Scotia are doing the same work.

“Nurses are the backbone of an already fragile health care system – from Yarmouth to Cape Breton. To have inequities of any kind, especially during a pandemic, sets us back and demoralizes nurses. This simply won’t be tolerated.”

The Nurses’ Union wants government, the Nova Scotia Health Authority and all others who employ LPNs, like long term care and community care, to address the matter as quickly as possible.

Back in 2014, the NSGEU initiated the reclassification process on behalf of all LPNs who worked in the former CDHA. With the assistance of a core group of LPNs who served as committee members, helping the union gather the necessary information from frontline workers and speak to the ways in which the LPNs role has evolved and changed, arbitrator Bruce Outhouse determined last fall that the role of the LPN had been substantially altered.

The union had to go to arbitration to have another arbitrator determine the appropriate corresponding monetary increase. That process took place during two days of mediation/arbitration on June 10 and 11 at the NSGEU offices.

“For many years, our LPNs have dutifully shouldered more responsibilities and have had very little extra to show for these efforts,” said MacLean, “Effective today, that changes.”

Wage parity has been a consistent practice in health care in Nova Scotia for more than 25 years. The NSGEU will now advocate that the provincial government extend the 12 per cent wage increase immediately to LPNs across the province.