N.S. NDP's proposed labour changes stir debate

The Nova Scotia NDP's proposed changes to labour legislation raise a chorus of concern from opposition politicians and business groups.

The Nova Scotia NDP's proposed changes to labour legislation are raising a chorus of concern from opposition politicians and business groups who say the changes are sweeping and pro-union.

Premier Darrell Dexter said criticism of his party's proposed labour changes are misguided. ((CBC) )

But Premier Darrell Dexter says critics are misinformed and part of an organized attempt to discredit a good piece of legislation.

The legislation, which merges various labour boards, has two parts that have been drawing fire.

First, succession rights included in Bill 100 would guarantee that unionized civil servants' collective agreements would follow them if their service is transferred or privatized.

That's raised concerns from some non-unionized businesses. Heather Cruickshanks, who runs a non-union metal fabrication shop in Halifax, says the proposed change is unfair.

"Because what's going to happen is any cost savings that would be obtained by going to the private sector is lost," she said. 

Another concern is a labour law advisory committee that excludes non-union businesses from discussions about labour issues such as the Trade Union Act. 

"The open-shop sector has been totally ignored," Cruickshanks said.

Opposition pounces

Liberal leader Stephen McNeil says if he's ever premier he'll repeal the succession rights and strike the committee.

"This is a way for unions, with this review committee, to open up any number of pieces of legislation that impact them," he said.

Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie was similarly critical.

"We've had 20 years of relative peace on the labour-management front, and this bill puts it at risk," he said.

But Dexter dismissed any concerns about the bill as groundless. His government has said the succession rights issue is only normalizing best practices that have been going on in the province for the last 15 to 20 years.

And he called criticisms of the advisory committee bizarre.

Meawnwhile, the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union welcomes the proposed changes as something they have been fighting to get for years.