Nova Scotia

Civil service union to file for arbitration after contract talks fail

Talks have failed between the Nova Scotia government and civil servants, with the union representing workers saying it plans to file for arbitration.

Tuesday's meeting was intended as a last-ditch attempt to reach a deal with the Nova Scotia government

NSGEU president Jason MacLean says his union's next step is to file for arbitration. (CBC)

Talks have again failed between the Nova Scotia government and civil servants, with the union representing workers saying it plans to file for arbitration.

"Government has zero interest on getting a deal," Jason MacLean, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, said Tuesday in an interview.

"What they want to do is paint up the members as looking to get something that's not there. But all they're looking to do is maintain what they have."

Not willing to budge

MacLean said the government hasn't changed its stance on any key issues or its last offer, which included a 3.5 per cent wage increase over four years.

It also included a major sticking point for the union: the government's desire to end the public service award, a benefit paid out upon retirement.

MacLean has been steadfast in saying the union will not willingly give up benefits achieved in past bargaining efforts.

The union agreed last month to additional conciliation dates Tuesday and Wednesday, following failed efforts in April that had the union calling then for arbitration.

Initially the union had wanted those dates set aside for an arbitration hearing before the provincial labour board.  

Too far apart

Government officials argued they didn't think talks had truly reached an impasse, hence the need for the additional talks.

MacLean said Tuesday he isn't sure why they bothered.

He said Wednesday's session was scrubbed after both sides agreed they are too far apart.

"We told them where we're willing to go and they said where they're willing to go, and they were nowhere near each other," he said.

Minister responds

In a statement, Labour Relations Minister Mark Furey said the government values civil servants and respects their collective bargaining rights.

"We also understand that collective bargaining requires give and take, and we have been willing to negotiate a fair deal with the NSGEU, one that ensures the services Nova Scotians depend on are sustainable," he said.

Removing the premier

MacLean said the union would file the paperwork Wednesday to go to arbitration. Premier Stephen McNeil has said in the past he won't allow an "unelected third party" to determine what the province can afford to pay.

But when the union agreed last month to the extra conciliation dates, it was under the condition the government would not stand in the way of arbitration if talks failed. MacLean said he expects that promise to be kept.

Trying to dictate

He said arbitration would "remove the premier from the table" and get his members in front of someone who would make a fair decision based on what the province can afford.

"What [the premier] is trying to do is dictate and nobody's having that," he said.

Union members voted down the government's contract offer in December.


Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at