Nova Scotia

Teachers' raises in Nova Scotia should be linked to budget savings, province says

The Nova Scotia government tells its 9,400 teachers: "If the union wants larger wage increases, it needs to work with government to find ways to deliver the same service for less cost."

Government puts onus on teachers to come up with ways to do their jobs for less money

The Nova Scotia government and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union are in contract talks this week. (iStock)

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said Wednesday that offering the province's 9,400 teachers a two per cent wage increase over five years is fair.

"I think if you look at it, no one is losing anything, no one got rolled back, there is nothing taken from anyone," McNeil said.

The province is offering a one per cent wage increase per year in 2018-19 and 2019-20. But raises for the years 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 hinge on finding cost-savings within the education system.

"If the union wants larger wage increases, it needs to work with government to find ways to deliver the same service for less cost,"  the government said Wednesday in a news release.

"We will share those increases with the union through wage increases in the out years of the new agreement."

'Concession bargaining'

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says the province's contract offer to teachers is fair. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Shelley Morse calls the tactic "concession bargaining." She said Finance Minister Randy Delorey laid out those wage figures in an Aug. 18 meeting with public sector unions.

"I think asking people to live to a five-year agreement, depending on the economic climate, could be viewed as unrealistic," Morse said.

She said the wage offer is "a starting point. We will have our starting point."

Morse would not disclose what the union's offer would be. She said both sides agreed to confidentiality in what was being discussed in negotiations, even though the province made its offer public.

"They informed us that they were going to do it. We weren't asked if it was OK with us. We were just told it was going to happen," she said.

Current agreement expired in July

The wage offer still contains annual raises, or step increases, for eligible teachers, the premier said.

Those increases range from four to five per cent for nearly 40 per cent of teachers, mostly at the lower end of the pay scale.

Shelley Morse, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, says the provincial government is using concession bargaining tactics in contract talks. (CBC)

"If there are different ways to deliver programs that can provide savings, we would entertain a conversation on how we can share that with our employees," McNeil said.

"I have said all along that our ability to pay has to be part of the conversation as we go forward on our collective agreements."

He said he did not know what offer the teachers union is putting on the table. The province has put a "tremendous" amount of money into classrooms, he said.

"All Nova Scotians are going to have to play a role in helping us get back to fiscal health and that includes those that have the good fortune of being part of the public sector," he said.

The current provincial agreement expired July 31, 2015. Negotiations between the province and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union began Tuesday.

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