Nova Scotia

NSGEU poised to reject tentative civil service deal

The president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, which represents a wide swath of the civil service, says the provincial government has not negotiated in good faith.

‘I believe it empowers members,' says NSGEU president Jason MacLean

NSGEU president Jason MacLean says the province hasn't been negotiating in good faith. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Members of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union are gearing up for a fight with the province and are poised to reject a tentative labour deal struck nearly a year ago. 

On Tuesday, the province's 9,000 teachers overwhelming rejected a tentative agreement with the province. That move has emboldened the NSGEU, whose 7,600 civil service workers still have to vote on their tentative agreement.

"Philosophically, I believe it empowers members," said Jason MacLean, president of the NSGEU. "You see a group that went forward, they're not looking for money they're looking for better working conditions." 

High workload for union members

The NSGEU represents a wide swath of the public service, from correctional officers to Access Nova Scotia employees. MacLean said his members, like the teachers, want to see their working conditions improved and workloads reduced. 

"This Liberal government came with a 10 per cent decrease to the civil service and what that did was it put up the workloads of everybody within the civil service." 

MacLean fully expects his membership to vote down the tentative agreement with the province when it comes up for a vote next month. 

Bill 148

That agreement has been on the table since January. A vote on the tentative deal was delayed due to a change in union leadership and because union leaders wanted to get a better understanding of Bill 148.   

Finance Minister Randy Delorey says Bill 148 contains no anti-strike language and allows the collective bargaining process to unfold. (CBC)

Bill 148 provides the provincial government with a way to impose a four-year wage package on Nova Scotia's 75,000 public servants. The bill has not yet been proclaimed. 

"It establishes the maximum amount that employers with the province can negotiate to, as well as if it goes to arbitration," said Finance Minister Randy Delorey. "It does not impose a collective agreement. The collective agreement process will still have to unfold." 

'They're not being fair to anybody'

Delorey said the bill also does not contain any anti-strike language.   

That doesn't ease MacLean's fears. He said the bill sets financial limits on collective bargaining before anyone comes to the table, meaning the province and the union aren't actually working together to create a contract, the province is merely dictating its financial terms. 

"They're not being fair to anybody. What they want to do is move forward with their agenda, but their agenda ... it's pushing workers out of the way," said MacLean.

In December, Premier Stephen McNeil promised not to bring in Bill 148 into force until it's needed. He told reporters that is likely to happen when a union decides to ask for arbitration. 

Meanwhile, health-care unions met on Monday to prepare for their upcoming round of bargaining.