Nova Scotians have an opportunity to participate in an important public dialogue on the continuity of services in our health-care system. On May 15, Premier Rodney MacDonald announced plans to introduce legislation this fall for a fair and impartial system to prevent service disruptions in the health-care and related sectors. He asked my department to engage in a dialogue with employees, unions and employers in these sectors, and all Nova Scotians with an interest in acute-care facilities, long-term-care facilities, homes for special care and ambulance services. We have just released a discussion paper that I hope will contribute to that dialogue. I look forward to hearing responses to it, which we will summarize in a report to the public. Strikes in the health-care sector, even short ones, are far more than an inconvenience. As an example, the mere prospect of a strike at the IWK forced the cancellation of more than 700 appointments. That illustrates just how tight the tolerances are in a modern health-care system. This is more than just a paperwork problem: it causes real, lasting hardship to the patients who could not get access to health care. Take a moment to recall the last time you used our health system and try to imagine your reaction if the doors had been closed. The pressure on the system is greater than ever. Thanks to advances in outpatient treatment, for example, the patients in acute-care centres are far more ill than they were 20 years ago. The same goes for residential centres, where residents are older and more infirm than they once were. These tight tolerances mean adapting to a loss of services at one centre can put tremendous pressure on those that have to take up the slack. This includes health-care workers, who have responded admirably. Essential-services agreements, which require a striking union to provide a minimum level of service, are not the answer. Despite the phrase “essential services”, there is no guarantee the number of staff left on duty will be enough to protect public health and safety. Even under an essential-services system, job action must cause a disruption in services, otherwise a strike has no impact. And in a modern health-care system, any disruption is serious. Also, the staffing in the health-care sector during strikes tends to focus on emergency services rather than essential services. The result is often a level of service that is simply too low. To use the IWK example again, between 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the striking union’s members were available during that disruption. The experience with the essential-services model in other jurisdictions hasn’t been encouraging. Both New Brunswick and Newfoundland have had to enact back-to-work legislation in the health-care sector when the essential-services model failed to protect the public interest, even when as many as 75 per cent of the workers had been deemed essential. The truth is that no government can tolerate a significant strike or lockout in the health-care sector. The almost inevitable result will be back-to-work legislation, usually leading to arbitration. Indeed, in recent years, many disputes in health care have been avoided or ended by arbitration. Unfortunately, by then a strike, or preparations for a strike, had already caused problems for patients. And, to correct a misconception, there is nothing in the Trade Union Act that allows government to force binding arbitration on the parties in a contract dispute. That would require an act of the legislature, which can easily take a week or more, even if there is general agreement among parties and the House is already sitting. These are the facts driving the government’s decision to introduce legislation. However, we also understand that the legislation we propose is something we should discuss with the affected parties and the public. So, as the premier requested, my department is engaged in that process. Responses to the government’s plan to date have warned that it is neither a “magic wand” nor a “panacea”. Our discussion paper acknowledges that, but clearly explains why we believe binding arbitration is the best option. However, when the premier made the announcement May 15, he said we would consider a “truly compelling alternative”. That has not changed. My message is please participate in this dialogue. This is an opportunity to have the discussion without the pressure that will surely abound if we wait until another crisis is upon us someday and emergency legislation becomes necessary. Your readers can find the discussion paper at www.gov.ns.ca/enla. -30-
President Maithripala Sirisena has appointed a cabinet sub-committee to look into the fuel issue.Minister Duminda Dissanayake said that the sub-committee cabinet sub-committee will recommend solutions to address the issue. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament today that a petrol shipment from India is scheduled to arrive in the country on Thursday apart from the shipment expected tomorrow. (Colombo Gazette)
A United Nations peacekeeper from India, soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and leaders of a Ugandan rebel movement were among the scores of people killed as the Congolese troops took back nine localities in the troubled eastern region of the country, the UN Mission in DRC (MONUC) reported today.The Indian peacekeeper who died Sunday was one of 1,000 MONUC forces supporting about 4,000 national Armed Forces of DRC (FARDC) troops, who have been conducting operations against armed rebel groups so as to restore the authority of the Congolese State. Another four peacekeepers were wounded, with one of the four having been seriously wounded. The operation, called “Ituri Eden,” began north of the Ituri district’s capital of Bunia against the armed group headed by Peter Karim Udaga, a former leader of the predominantly ethnic Lendu militia, the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI), according to MONUC.Some 1,500 FARDC soldiers, supported by 300 Nepalese peacekeepers, have been involved in the operation, pushing forces loyal to Karim in a northeasterly direction towards the Ugandan border. Several of Karim’s followers were killed in firefights, the town of Nioka was cleared of armed former militiamen, and two of Karim’s bodyguards were captured, in addition to 17 weapons and a truck loaded with precious woods, the mission said. The FARDC casualties totalled 16 wounded and six dead, while the armed rebel groups were believed to have sustained around 90 casualties.MONUC General Narena Satiya told the mission’s Radio Okapi that two rebel leaders, whom he named as Parada and Amosi, were killed, another called Bosco fled into the hills of Ruhengeri, while a fourth, Luini, was seriously wounded.In the radio interview FARDC General Mbuyi added that his troops seized several items, including 41 weapons and a solar panel.