The Nova Scotia government opens a new session of the legislature next week with a labour battle looming.
Nearly ten months after it was passed, Nova Scotia’s controversial Bill 148 is once again top of mind for the province's public sector unions.
The bill allows government to force a wage pattern on 75,000 public servants, something labour leaders say is undermining the collective bargaining process.
“By doing this, and putting Bill 148 forward and trying to hide behind that, that is cowardice and not being a good leader,” said Jason MacLean, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union.
If government hoped the bill would speed up the process of signing contracts with unions, that hasn't been the outcome. The bill hasn't been proclaimed, and the Nova Scotia Teachers union's rejection of a deal this week won't change that.
“It does not impose a collective agreement, the collective agreement process would have to unfold,” said Nova Scotia Finance Minister Randy Delorey.
But after two no-votes on two separate tentative agreements, the province says it won't be negotiating a third time with teachers.
“We believe that those negotiations were hard, they were intense, and they were meaningful,” said Nova Scotia Education Minister Karen Casey.
Public school teachers have been without a contract since July 2015. With no negotiations on the horizon, teachers now decide whether to have a strike vote.
As they did last December when the teachers voted no the first time, the NSGEU and other unions are watching closely.
Jason MacLean is recommending his members reject the deal struck last fall and allow the union to negotiate something better.
“I think it's possible if we get back to the table, but if this government wants to be belligerent and not co-operate, then so be it,” said MacLean.
The NSGEU also represents one of the four health care bargaining council, which has bargaining dates with the province through February.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Sarah Ritchie.