Stephen McNeil demands NSGEU hold planned contract vote

The McNeil government issued an ultimatum Wednesday to Nova Scotia's largest public sector union, demanding it hold a scheduled ratification vote on a tentative agreement freezing civil service wages.

NSGEU announces Wednesday it will not hold ratification vote because teachers refused a similar deal

Premier Stephen McNeil said the province won't wait indefinitely for members of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union to vote on the contract offer. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

The McNeil government issued an ultimatum Wednesday to Nova Scotia's largest public sector union, demanding it hold a scheduled ratification vote on a tentative agreement freezing civil service wages.

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union said earlier in the day it will postpone the ratification vote for 7,600 civil servants after teachers voted down the same wage offer on Tuesday.

The four-year deal freezes wages for two years with a three per cent increase over the final two years.

The teachers were the first to vote on the settlement, which would have set the wage pattern for public sector workers.

"The tentative agreement was not made contingent on another union accepting a similar offer," government negotiator Rollie King said in a letter to the NSGEU that was released by the union.

However, NSGEU president Joan Jessome said her union's endorsement was based on the teachers voting in favour of the deal.

The government letter asked for confirmation by Thursday from the NSGEU that the ratification process would continue as scheduled and wrap up on Dec. 7.

Reaction from premier

Premier Stephen McNeil said there's an offer on the table and the province won't wait for the union indefinitely. 

"We expect them to give us a date and if they don't then, we obviously have decisions to make," he said.

Jessome said it will take several weeks to arrange a meeting with the 70-member civil service bargaining committee to see if they still wish to recommend the offer. Like the teachers, Jessome said the government had threatened civil servants with legislation to impose a settlement.

Since then, McNeil has dismissed the threat of pending legislation.

On Tuesday night, teachers voted down the deal, imploding the wage pattern and putting legislation back on the agenda.

McNeil said Wednesday he hopes negotiations with the province's teachers will resume after they rejected the deal, but didn't rule out imposing a contract through legislation. He said there was not legislation ready to be tabled.

Holding the line on public sector wages is central to the Liberal plan to balance the budget before the next provincial election.

The teacher turnout was high for the contract vote — 94 per cent of members cast ballots. Sixty-one per cent of them voted against it.

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