Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia public-sector unions say doctor deal doesn't impact them

Nova Scotia's major labour unions say a recently announced contract between the provincial government and doctors has no impact on their own negotiations with the government.

Nova Scotia Government & General Employees Union says comparing offers is like apples and oranges

NSGEU president Jason MacLean says there is no timeline for his members to vote on a contract offer from the province. (CBC)

The provincial government might finally have a contract settled with doctors, but the head of Nova Scotia's largest public-sector unions say the deal has no impact on their respective situations.

The four-year deal with doctors was formally announced on Wednesday. While there are many aspects of the contract that are unique to doctors, the skeleton is the same zero, zero, one and 1½ per cent increase being offered to other unions.

'Fundamentally different'

But Nova Scotia Government & General Employees Union president Jason MacLean said comparing the doctors' deal to what's on the table for other unions is like comparing apples and oranges.

MacLean, whose union represents the civil service and some health-care workers, said he expects the province will try to use the doctors' contract to establish a wage pattern, but he doesn't think it will work.

"I believe that this deal is fundamentally different."

Finance Minister Randy Delorey didn't directly respond when asked if he thought the newly inked agreement sets a wage pattern, something that would give weight to imposing deals on other unions.

Finance Minister Randy Delorey says the government is ready and waiting for unions to come to the bargaining table. (Legislative TV)

Every contract the province has tried to negotiate has involved a balance between pay increases and where the government believes it needs to be to get its books in order, he said.

The deal with the doctors also marks the first contract signed so far between the Liberals and a sizable association.

Little progress with other unions

Members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union resoundingly rejected a contract offer late last year. Conciliation talks with the teachers are scheduled for next month; highway workers are also scheduled to go to conciliation in July.

There are no talks scheduled right now between the government and CUPE Nova Scotia. That union has remained steadfast that the Grits' offer amounts to concession bargaining and the union, as such, won't participate. (For now it appears the only way the government will reach a contract with CUPE is if it proclaims one via its controversial Bill 148.)

As for MacLean's union, they have yet to vote on their offer and a date remains to be set.

No rush to vote

Although the union is recommending the offer be rejected, MacLean said recent changes to NSGEU executive and its bargaining team mean they aren't in a position to set a date to vote.

"As it stands right now we're in no rush to bring it to a vote," he said.

It could also be that there's no real rush because there is little financial motivation to vote soon.

The contract offer for all unions is front-loaded with no increases, and there are no retroactive pay bumps that would come if agreements are eventually reached within the first two years. While there are differences to the way the long-service award is paid if contracts are proclaimed, that so far has had little sway with unions.

MacLean doesn't disagree with the observation, but he noted there are non-monetary things the government could be doing to help facilitate a deal, even if the money remained the same.

He declined to elaborate.

Government is ready and waiting

As for Delorey, he renewed his call for unions not at the bargaining table to get there, and for those who haven't voted yet on offers to do so.

It has always been the government's goal to get agreements in the most timely way, but Delorey said it takes two sides sitting down together to make that happen.

"We are a willing party to work through the agreements, we're just waiting on the others."