Rejection of wage offers to N.S unions could lead to legislation: premier
Published Wednesday, December 2, 2015 7:17AM AST Last Updated Thursday, December 3, 2015 7:27AM AST
HALIFAX -- An apparent contract impasse with two key public sector unions has Nova Scotia's premier raising the possibility of legislation as a way of getting wage settlements the government wants.
Stephen McNeil said Wednesday although legislation was being drawn up after the province's teachers rejected a contract offer, no decision has been made to use it.
After the 9,000 unionized teachers turned down the offer, another union announced it was delaying a ratification vote.
McNeil said the government is open to talking with both unions, but it won't budge on wages.
"The financial terms that are on the table will be no better," he said. "We have no more revenue to put into wage increases."
The tentative contract rejected Tuesday by the teachers offered a wage increase of three per cent over four years, but it also included a wage freeze in the first two years.
The union said wages weren't the only reason the offer was rejected, pointing to possible changes to certification, self-directed professional development and the composition of the union's membership.
McNeil said the government would contact the teachers' union to discuss their concerns.
Earlier Wednesday, the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union said it was delaying a vote on a tentative contract with the province after the move by the teachers.
Union president Joan Jessome said the ratification vote that was scheduled for this week wouldn't be held until the bargaining committee consulted with union members.
Jessome said it's the responsible thing to do.
"Circumstances have changed ... and we have to go back and make sure that everybody still is on the same page," she said.
Jessome said she recommended acceptance of the deal reached last month because she believed the government would legislate a settlement otherwise.
She said her union wants to see how the government reacts to the decision by the teachers before going ahead with its vote.
McNeil said the government is looking for the union to act.
"We won't be waiting indefinitely for the NSGEU to decide at some later date," said McNeil. "We have an offer on the table."
The union later posted a letter on its website from the government saying that if the ratification vote isn't concluded by Dec. 7 that the contract offer could be withdrawn.
"If the ratification is delayed, suspended or deferred in any manner we will consider our options including withdrawal of the offer of November 13, 2015," the letter states.
The NSGEU's deal also includes a wage freeze in first two years, a one-per-cent raise in the third year, 1.5 per cent at the start and 0.5 per cent at the end of the fourth year.
The tentative deal would apply to 7,600 members of the civil service, including sheriff's deputies, correctional officers, administrative personnel, social workers and probation officers.