HALIFAX -- The Nova Scotia government reached a tentative contract deal with 7,600 civil servants on Friday, possibly averting a showdown with one of the province's largest and most outspoken unions.
Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, said the bargaining unit's negotiating committee is recommending acceptance of the deal because it protects job security and would prevent the government from using back-to-work legislation.
"The only reason that we are recommending this offer is that we were absolutely convinced that legislation was coming ... and a settlement would be imposed on us and it would take away our job security," she said in an interview. "It has left a sour taste in our mouths. This is not bargaining."
The four-year deal includes a wage freeze in first two years, a one per cent raise in the third year, 1.5 per cent on the first day of the fourth year and 0.5 per cent on the last day of the fourth year, she said.
A ratification vote has been scheduled for the first week in December.
The tentative deal applies to a wide cross section of the civil service, including sheriffs' deputies, correctional officers, administrative personnel, social workers and probation officers.
"I am pleased our meaningful discussions at the table have resulted in a tentative agreement that stays within our fiscal plan," Premier Stephen McNeil said in a statement. "We continue to encourage others to come to the table."
Negotiations with the civil servants began on Oct. 21. The parties met for five days. The previous agreement expired March 31.
On Thursday, the Nova Scotia government reached a tentative deal with the province's 9,000 public school teachers. No details were released about that agreement.
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union plans to present the agreement to its members on Nov. 17-18 and a ratification vote has been scheduled for Dec. 1.
In August, the government said it wanted five-year deals with no increases in the first three years and increases of one per cent in each of the final two years. Within that framework the unions can suggest ways to find program savings that can be used for wage increases.
McNeil's majority government has taken a tough line with public sector unions since it came to power in 2013.
In April 2014, the government ended a day-long strike by thousands of Halifax-area nurses by passing legislation requiring unions and employers to have essential services agreements in place before a strike or lockout.
That was followed by legislation that merged the number of bargaining units in the health-care system from 50 to four to streamline collective bargaining.