Nova Scotia

Randy Delorey to meet with Nova Scotia union heads as contracts expire

Nova Scotia's freshly-minted finance minister is asking for a meeting next week with unions as many collective agreements have expired — labour settlements he calls the highest in the country over the last three years.

Newly-minted finance minister says he wants to discuss 'new approach' to collective bargaining

Randy Delorey, Nova Scotia's freshly-minted finance minister, is asking for a meeting next week with unions as many collective agreements have expired. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's freshly-minted finance minister is asking for a meeting next week with unions as many collective agreements have expired — labour settlements he calls the highest in the country over the last three years.

In a letter to unions, Randy Delorey says he wants to discuss a "new approach" to collective bargaining next Tuesday, but does not spell out what that means.

The letter, obtained by CBC News, says the Nova Scotia public sector employs roughly 50,000 workers, but that the province faces a "stark" fiscal reality.

"A core priority of this government is to reform our finances in order to safeguard the services Nova Scotians rely upon," Delorey says.  

"We have heard loud and clear from Nova Scotians that taxpayers are not interested in contributing any more."

The letter says labour agreements in recent years have "outpaced the growth in our economy." At $5.2 billion a year, worker salaries, benefits and other compensation are the single largest expense the province and public sector employers face, the letter says.

The president of the Nova Scotia Union of Government and General Employees Union, Joan Jessome, confirms her union is one of those to receive the invitation.

"We will attend," she told CBC News on Tuesday. "If we stay, that remains to be seen. It depends on what's going to happen at the meeting."

The Liberal government has been at odds with several major Nova Scotia unions. Last year, there were protests outside the legislature as the government passed its controversial essential services law.

The legislation ended a strike by nurses who were then part of the Capital District Health Authority. The law also dictated that health-care workers must have an essential services plan signed off by their employer that guarantees patient safety before any walkout.

The government also faced off with health-care unions over plans to reorganize bargaining units following the merger of health authorities across the province. The province finally came to a deal in March.

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