More than 4,600 acute-care nurses in Nova Scotia have a tentative contract.

The Nova Scotia Nurses' Union announced Thursday it had struck a deal for its registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and nurse practitioners.

The offer includes a raise of 2.9 per cent a year for three years, the same hike offered to nurses who work for the Capital District Health Authority.

But union president Janet Hazelton said negotiators opted for different incentives to try to retain veteran nurses, including more money for those in education and leadership roles.

"Some of the things we have negotiated are portability of seniority across the province," she said. "We're trying to make it easier for nurses to move around the province to work where they want to work, when they want to work."

Hazelton said the tentative deal expires in the fall of 2009 to give both sides time to see what's working.

"If it doesn't work, then we'll be able to … make the necessary changes to either add to it, change it or do whatever we need to fix so that the ultimate goal of recruiting and retaining nurses is reached for us all," she said.

The bargaining committee is recommending its members accept the tentative deal. Nurses will mail in their ballots later this month, with counting to take place on Feb. 28.

Meanwhile, the ballot counting for members of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union Local 79 is scheduled for Thursday.