While negotiations between Capital Health and its employees continue, health workers' rights are as prescient now as ever before. Working people have the right to bargain collectively and withdraw their labour, or strike, if they feel they are being treated unfairly. Healthcare workers must be allowed their right to strike; their ability to adequately bargain collectively actually benefits the healthcare system as a whole. With a shortage of health care workers willing to remain in the province, the system's ability to recruit and retain workers is a backdrop to any negotiations. CCPA-NS Research Associates explored these themes in a series of studies over 2007-2008.
A Tale of two Provinces: Alberta and Nova Scotia argues that strikes happen whether they are legal or not, and, like in Alberta, when they are made illegal they often grow in frequency.
Health Care Strikes: Pulling the Red Chord argues that if politicians and health care administrators insist on running a system so low on resources that it cannot handle any labour disputes, then the ability of workers to strike, to pull the red cord as it were, is an essential system mechanism to ensure quality of care in the long run.
Is Compulsory Arbitration a Good Substitute for the Right to Strike in Health Care deals with several of the most intractable problems in health care collective bargaining that make withdrawal of the right to strike especially harmful to the health care system.
Note: Since the release of these studies, Saskatchewan has introduced “essential services” legislation that reached well beyond any existing labour-relations law. In February, the legislation was struck down by the superior court as it found that workers have the constitutional right to strike and while it can be restricted, the court ruled that this legislation effectively took away employees' right to take part in meaningful strike action. The government is currently appealing the decision.