Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia government and civil servants to restart contract talks

The Nova Scotia government and the union that represents more than 7,300 civil servants will return to the bargaining table Monday, according to the union.

Union members rejected tentative contract agreement on Wednesday

NSGEU members rejected the tentative contract agreement on Wednesday. (Catharine Tunney/CBC)

The Nova Scotia government and the union that represents more than 7,300 civil servants will return to the bargaining table Monday, according to the union.

Members of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union rejected the province's contract offer on Wednesday.

The contract offer was more than a year old, but wasn't voted on until this week. It was rejected by 94 per cent of civil servants who cast a ballot.

The union approached the province about returning to the table after the vote, union president Jason MacLean said.

"All I can say is it's very exciting to have this and we're looking for some closure," he said.

"It's been three years of turmoil and now let's get some labour peace in this province."

Surplus by retirement award

MacLean said he's optimistic both sides can reach an agreement quickly. He pointed to the province's recent announcement of a tiny surplus, a change from last year's deficit.

Finance officials said Thursday that a projected end-of-year surplus of $12 million is tied to freezing retirement awards for public sector workers.

But NSGEU members said "loud and clear" that they want to keep the long-service award, MacLean said. The union is therefore heading into Monday's negotiations expecting to keep the collective agreement at "status quo."

"If the government wants to reach in and take anything out of there, I believe it will break down but I have a feeling that's not where it's going," he said.

Earlier this week, MacLean said he is not considering arbitration, mediation or conciliation. He also said he's not worried about Bill 148, legislation that would impose a four-year wage package on workers.

Different wages

The government wants a two-year wage freeze followed by a three per cent increase in the last two years. It also wants to freeze the long-service award, which is paid out on retirement, and eliminate it for new employees.

"Government values the hard work and dedication of our employees," Finance Minister Randy Delorey said in an email statement Friday evening.

"I am pleased both parties will return to the bargaining table on Monday and am hopeful an agreement can be reached at the table that is affordable for all Nova Scotians."

The union instead wants a three-year deal with wages increasing at the rate of the province's fiscal growth, but no less than the change in the consumer price index.

The NSGEU represents a wide range of civil servants, from administrative professionals to correctional officers to architects.

With files from Blair Rhodes

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