Updated: Nova Scotia government introduces essential services law, Halifax nurses walk off job

Published on April 1, 2014

Premier Stephen McNeil answers questions at One Government Place.

©Jeff Harper - Metro Halifax

The province introduced a bill last night to guarantee essential care during a strike or lockout that health care, homes for seniors, youth, or people with special needs. 

Expected to be pass in the legislature today, April 1, thanks to all night sessions,  Essential Health and Community Services Act requires unions and employers to have an essential services agreement in place before job action is taken. If they cannot reach an agreement, an independent third party decides.

Halifax media outlets are reporting that Nova Scotia Government Employees Union nurses in Capital Health, who are in a legal strike position April 2, have walked off the job this morning. 

Capital Health issued a statement this morning saying, "some members of NSGEU have begun to take an illegal strike action." 

The health authority says services will be "significantly disrupted," but emergency rooms, dialysis, cancer care and intensive care units are being staffed. 

"However, many areas of care will have fewer registered nurses," Capital Health said. 

Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada without this type of essential services legislation, the government said in a release late March 31. 

Unions and employers affected by the legislation include those for: hospitals, homes for seniors, the disabled or youth; paramedics; nurses and 911 operators.

The legislation takes effect as soon as it is passed, and does not expire.


The parties can request conciliation or mediation to help negotiate an essential services agreement. If they can't agree on essential services, or fail to negotiate, either party can apply to the labour board. The legislation ensures the process happens quickly.


Employers or unions that take job action before an essential services agreement is in place can be fined $100,000 for the first day, and $10,000 for each additional day. People can be fined $1,000 for the first day, and $200 for each additional day.