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N.S. health workers to delay possible strike action due to swine flu pandemic

HALIFAX, N.S. - Hospital workers in districts outside Halifax say they won't go on strike before early next year due to Nova Scotia's efforts to combat the swine flu.

HALIFAX, N.S. - Hospital workers in districts outside Halifax say they won't go on strike before early next year due to Nova Scotia's efforts to combat the swine flu.

Some locals of the Canadian Union of Public Employees will be in a legal strike position as of Nov. 17.

Karen MacKenzie, chair of the union's bargaining committee, said Wednesday that health workers want to reassure the public that while they may take strike votes beginning Thursday, it won't lead to an immediate walkout of the 3,300 workers.

MacKenzie, an X-ray technician at Colchester Regional Hospital in Truro, said her union wouldn't do anything to harm public health.

"We want to ease some of the concerns and fears the public may have about us withdrawing our services in this second phase of the H1N1 pandemic," she said.

The bargaining unit represents five locals at 33 hospitals in rural Nova Scotia and is seeking wage parity with workers who do similar jobs in Halifax-area hospitals.

The union's bargaining team said it wouldn't impose a strike until Jan. 11 and will assess whether the H1N1 pandemic is under control before any walkout goes ahead.

MacKenzie said that "should allow us to get through the second wave of the pandemic."

"At that point we'll reassess the situation we're in."

The union represents workers in job categories that include dieticians, X-ray technicians, cleaners, ward clerks, pharmacists and psychologists.

She said CUPE workers are dissatisfied with their wages and are seeking increases ranging from two to eight per cent, depending on the job category.

"Our main issue is parity with workers in other acute-care hospitals."

The NDP government has said it wants to hold wage increases to one per cent annually due to the provincial deficit.

The union leader said her workers need larger raises than that.

"We will not concession-bargain," MacKenzie said. "We have had wage parity for the last eight years. We will continue this because our hospitals cannot function without skilled workers."

 
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