The public is now getting a chance to have its say on Bill 148 – a law that will freeze and then restrict public service wages in Nova Scotia.
The Public Services Sustainability Act affects 75,000 public sector unionized and non-unionized workers, including teachers, highway workers, social workers and civil servants.
It sets out a four-year wage framework, provides limits on what an arbitrator can award, and freezes long service awards retroactive to April 1 of this year, as well as the salary on which they're paid.
Bev Strachan represents 4,700 acute care workers.
As her union gets set to start bargaining, she feels part of the decision has already been made before engaging in the process.
“People deliver services every day continually because they believe in the work that they do,” said Strachan. “This government just doesn't respect these workers and the work they do.”
It’s the next step in the process after the bill passed second reading. There was an overnight session at the legislature to get to this point.
The bill was raised in question period Tuesday.
“Why has he attacked their rights?” asked Opposition Leader Maureen MacDonald.
“We have fiscal challenges in this province, Mr. Speaker, and all Nova Scotians are going to have to be part of getting us back,” said Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil. “No worker in this province is losing anything they've earned and that they were at the bargaining table.”
The debate continued for the remainder of the session, lasting about 12 hours.
“We might as well call this bill what it is, it’s the, 'We don't know how to negotiate,'” said provincial Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie.
“Government doesn't take introducing this legislation lightly,” said Finance Minister Randy Delorey.
After hours of debate, the bill eventually passed second reading and was turned over to law amendments.
“We've done the best we can in the face of a majority government that is hell-bent on ramming legislation through this place as quickly as possible,” said MacDonald.
The finance minister says it’s about the risk of the province's financial situation.
“We have a history in this province where arbitration and arbitrators have issued compensation increases, particularly around wages, that were unsustainable and unaffordable for the province,” said Delorey.
Law amendments got underway around 5 p.m. and will continue for five hours on Tuesday and Wednesday.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jacqueline Foster.