Nova Scotia

NSGEU files for conciliation, says government won't budge

The NSGEU has filed for conciliation, saying contract talks with the province have reached an impasse.

Union says contract talks with province have reached an impasse

The union representing 7,300 government workers in Nova Scotia is filing for conciliation after reaching what it calls an impasse in contract talks with the province.

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union issued a news release Thursday night saying members want a fair agreement and hope a conciliator can help make that happen.

The two sides last held contract talks in December.

Not looking to give concessions

"Government is giving us indication that they're not willing to move any further," union president Jason MacLean said in an interview.

"They're looking for concessions and we're not looking to give any concessions."

Union members resoundingly voted down an offer from the government in December. The offer was made a year ago and was initially recommended to the membership before union leaders changed their recommendation and ultimately put it to a vote.

Trying to 'strong-arm everyone'

The government's offer is a four-year contract with no increases in the first two years, following by a three per cent increase in the final two years. The offer would also remove the public service award, a deferred wage benefit negotiated in the 1980s that is paid out upon retirement.

Premier Stephen McNeil has held firm that he isn't willing to budge from that offer without unions giving up something at their end. Still, MacLean said he's optimistic a conciliator can help.

"What they're trying to do is strong-arm everyone," said MacLean.

Not concerns about Bill 148

The civil servants don't have the right to strike and in the past would go to arbitration if a deal could not be reached. But McNeil has made clear that if a union calls for arbitration, he would proclaim Bill 148, which would impose a wage package on a given union.

MacLean reiterated Thursday that he's not worried about the legislation. It's his belief the legislation would not withstand a court challenge.

"What we're saying is [McNeil] is circumventing the process and we're just going about business as usual," he said.

"We need to bargain fairly and we're not looking to give up things that we've earned over the years."

Province disappointed

In a statement, Finance Minister Randy Delorey said the government would continue with the process in hopes of reaching a deal.

"We are disappointed the collective bargaining process has yet to produce a collective agreement," he said via email.