HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s biggest union says its expecting the government to legislate civil service wages and will do whatever it can to fight back.
Just as the legislature is set to start its fall session, Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union President Joan Jessome warned more protests like the ones that hung over much of last fall’s session are likely.
“We will do what we can to fight back,” said Jessome. “But you know there’s a ballot box in less than two years, so that’s one way that our members will be able to certainly let the Liberal government know how disappointed they are and how tired they are of being beaten up.”
The NSGEU is negotiating the collective agreement for 7,600 members. It says the two sides are far apart on many key issues. For example, Jessome says the government wants a five year collective agreement with a three year wage freeze, followed by a one per cent increase for each of the last two years. The union says it wants a three year collective agreement with a yearly wage increase tied to the province’s economic growth.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson with the Finance Department said the province last met with labour leaders on November 5 as part of an, “ongoing dialogue around labour relations in the context of our fiscal situation,” said Marla MacInnis. Her statement goes on to say the government spends 52 per cent of the total budget on compensation for public sector employees.
However, the NSGEU says the government has put so many restrictions on the bargaining that it’s not possible to negotiate fairly. Jessome said she thinks ultimately, the province will legislate public sector wages rather than leaving the wage increases to an arbitrator to decide.