PREMIER’S OFFICE-Premier Starts Process To Avoid Health Sector Disruptions The province will introduce legislation this fall for a fair and impartial system to prevent service disruptions in the health care and related sectors, Premier Rodney MacDonald announced today, May 15. “Nova Scotians deserve to be protected from disruptions to health care, just as health-care workers deserve an effective system for collective bargaining,” Premier MacDonald said. “A system of arbitration is our preferred option at this time. However, if a truly compelling alternative comes to our attention, we will give it serious consideration. “Collective agreements will continue to be negotiated, but we need a fair process to enable health-care workers and their employers to resolve disputes if negotiations reach an impasse. We cannot close the doors of our health system any more than we can do without the services of police or firefighters.” The premier has asked Environment and Labour Minister Mark Parent to oversee a dialogue with Nova Scotians and stakeholders from acute-care facilities, long-term-care facilities, homes for special care, and ambulance services. The objective is to help develop a fair, impartial and independent alternative to strikes or lockouts when collective bargaining reaches an impasse. “We also want to draw on the best practices of other health-care systems as we design a made-in-Nova Scotia solution,” said the premier. Nova Scotia is one of only two provinces in Canada where the right to strike or lockout in the health sector is the same as in private industry. Nova Scotia will have a new process designed to avoid a work stoppage like the recent one at the IWK Health Centre that resulted in the cancellation of services. “I believe our current system of resolving impasses in this sector has failed all of us — workers, management, and the public,” said Premier MacDonald. “Our government is committed to a system that is fair to both health-sector employees and Nova Scotians who expect and deserve health care.”
The new measure, which came into force on 5 May, is known as the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It will allow individuals or groups to file a complaint with the UN if their rights are infringed by a Member State that is party to the Protocol, lifting these rights to equal standing with all other human rights protected within the panoply of international law. In a statement celebrating the occasion as “a major advance,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, voiced hope that the Protocol would finally fill a long-time gap in international law. “Egregious violations of economic, social and cultural rights are occurring, often unnoticed, on a daily basis, which in the area of civil and political rights would have been immediately condemned,” said Ms. Pillay in a news release.“This Protocol will help to address this imbalance.”According to the Protocol, citizens of signatory nations will be permitted to appeal to the UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on specific rights-related cases after they have exhausted all attempts to find justice in their respective countries. In addition, the Protocol grants the Committee authorization to conduct inquiries if it receives reliable information indicating “grave or systematic violations by a State party of any of the rights covered by the Covenant,” the statement read. “I am confident that these mechanisms will make it possible for the Committee to assist States and other stakeholders to get to the root causes of violations of economic, social and cultural rights,” the High Commissioner continued. The Protocol took effect three months after Uruguay became the required tenth country to ratify it – joining Argentina, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mongolia, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain. Ms. Pillay welcomed Uruguay’s signing back in February and urged other States among the 160 that are already party to the Covenant to ratify the Optional Protocol as soon as possible. “The Protocol makes a strong and unequivocal statement about the equal value and importance of all human rights and the need for strengthened legal protection of economic, social and cultural rights in particular,” Ms. Pillay stated.