Nova Scotia's 400 correctional workers could be in for a big payday when they finally settle their collective agreement with the provincial government.
The New Democrat government is offering an increase of 6.5 per cent — on top of the across-the-board one per cent other unionized workers are getting.
"It certainly is an increase," Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, said Monday.
The union made the offer public on its website, but negotiations are continuing.
For months the provincial government has limited wage increases to one per cent for its unionized workers. But the offer to correctional officers gets around the restriction by putting jail guards into the civil service local and adjusting their pay upwards.
That is something the union has long sought.
"This is the farthest we've ever gotten to be able to bring them into the civil service," Jessome said. "There's lots of benefits for that to happen. You know, we have correctional officers who are hurt on the job, quite often they're out on (long term disability), and they have no place to go.
"This gives them an ability to be trained within government, within that collective agreement."
Under the government proposal the union posted on its website, jail guards would get a three per cent pay increase this year, followed by a two per cent increase next year and 1.4 per cent in 2012.
"This is in addition to any civil service general wage increase," the proposal says.
Bedford Liberal MLA Kelly Regan wondered what happened to government restraint.
"Well, it certainly flies in the face of those claims," she said. "In fact, what it looks like is that this government is rewarding their pals while telling the rest of us to tighten their belts."
The Justice Department refused comment on the negotiations.
Health-care workers outside Halifax nearly went on strike earlier this year over the government's one per cent wage increase offer.