HALIFAX -- A council of Nova Scotia health-care unions is recommending its members ratify a proposed process to resolve a protracted contract dispute with the province's health authority and the IWK Health Centre.

In a news release Tuesday, the council said the decision follows a vote on Monday by all bargaining committee members to recommend ratification of a proposed mediation-arbitration process.

The unexpected news came hours before the council also released results of a strike mandate vote, which saw 93 per cent of health care bargaining unit members who participated vote in support of a province-wide strike.

Meanwhile, the province said the sides have reached an agreement to create the process in order to resolve any outstanding issues following collective bargaining, and have also agreed to suspend the right to strike or lock out during this round of bargaining.

The council said if ratified over the coming weeks, the process will conclude collective agreements for all four bargaining committees in health care, nursing, support services, and administrative professionals.

The Council of Unions includes the Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions, Nova Scotia Council of Nursing Unions, Nova Scotia Council of Health Administrative Professional Unions and the Nova Scotia Council of Health Support Unions.

Union officials say the council won't comment publicly until the membership has an opportunity to see and vote on the proposal.

The Labour Relations Department said the current round of health-care collective bargaining has been unusually complex with the merging of 50 agreements into eight.

"Given this complexity, all parties agreed that a final and binding mediation-arbitration process is the best way to resolve outstanding issues," the department said in a news release.

Under provincial legislation, essential services agreements, which set out staffing levels and other expectations, must be finalized with the health authority before employees can take job action.

Unionized workers at the IWK had their essential services agreement finalized last week, while an agreement is yet to be finalized for workers employed by the Nova Scotia Health Authority.