Carol Ferguson and Kelly Murray

Coordinated bargaining broke new ground in Nova Scotia’s long term care and community services sector. In an unprecedented and innovative move, locals secured targeted provincial funding for dental benefits for 4900 CUPE members working for non-profit agencies and for-profit companies. Employers in the sector are funded by the provincial departments of health and wellness and community services on a per diem basis. CUPE sought targeted funding from the provincial funders to ensure implementation and accountability by employers. In effect, the provincial departments pay the employer’s premium share of 50 per cent.

Employers may choose the dental plan carrier, but the memorandum of agreement stipulates that the dental plan chosen must be comparable in benefits and cost to the plan provided by the Health Association of Nova Scotia (HANS) for hospital workers. Most employers have opted for the HANS dental plan.

Solidarity across 59 CUPE locals was key to achieving this bargaining success. The locals represent workers in nursing homes, homes for assisted living, residential care facilities and group homes throughout the province.

In Nova Scotia there is no legislation requiring councils of unions, so coordinated bargaining happens on a consensual basis, with CUPE locals and their employers agreeing to the process. The sector has carried out coordinated bargaining since 1997.


Dental Plan

The parties agree that dental benefits will be made available to all permanent employees in the bargaining unit in accordance with the following:

1.   Dental benefits will be made available to permanent employees in the bargaining unit effective January 1, 2014.
2.   Subject to the eligibility requirements of the plan selected by the employer, participation in the plan will be mandatory for all employees, except where satisfactory proof of coverage under a spousal plan is provided. The employer will receive input through the Labour Management committee before making a final decision on plan selection. The intent of this provisions is to ensure that the selection of dental plan by any given employer involves one comparable in benefits offered to the HANS Dental Plan and comparable in cost.
3.   Upon commencement, premium costs for the plan will be shared on the basis of 50% Employer and 50% Employee.