Nova Scotia union snubs government ultimatum over tentative contract vote

By , on December 3, 2015

Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) (Photo from NSGEU's website)
Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU)
(Photo from NSGEU’s website)

HALIFAX—A union’s snub of a government ultimatum over a contract vote saw Nova Scotia’s deputy premier adopt a more conciliatory tone Thursday.

In a letter sent to the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union the government said it would consider the withdrawal of its tentative contract offer if a ratification vote wasn’t concluded by Monday.

The letter, sent Wednesday, also demanded that the union make its intentions known to the government by 9 a.m. Thursday.

NSGEU president Joan Jessome ignored the deadline, saying the government had no right to tell the union how to conduct its business.

Deputy premier Diana Whalen later responded by downplaying the ultimatum.

“There is no time frame at the moment,” said Whalen. “Our message to our partners is that they please follow through . . . and let their membership vote on this agreement.”

Whalen wouldn’t directly address what would happen if a vote isn’t held by Monday. She also wouldn’t say why the government had changed its tone.

“It takes time to consider the options and as a government we have no intention of doing something in haste,” she said.

Premier Stephen MacNeil has said options including legislation would be considered if wage settlements couldn’t be reached with the province’s 9,000 teachers and with 7,600 civil servants.

The teachers’ union rejected a tentative deal earlier this week, prompting the NSGEU to delay its vote on a similar contract offer.

Jessome said her union was justified in ignoring the government’s ultimatum.

“The government has no authority, and no employer has any authority on when to direct a union to hold a vote,” said Jessome.

She said a vote would be held, but it would be conducted on the union’s schedule.

Jessome said she would be consulting with the union’s executive and bargaining committee later Thursday to determine their next move.

The government is offering teachers and civil servants wage increases of three per cent over four years, although both deals include a wage freeze in the first two years.

The NSGEU’s deal would apply to civil servants including sheriff’s deputies, correctional officers, administrative personnel, social workers and probation officers.