Statement from the Minister
NOTE: The following is a message from Finance and Treasury Board Minister Randy Delorey.
We are committed to a new approach to collective bargaining. Finding new ways to tackle old problems is the only way to chart a new path forward for our province.
This new path forward acknowledges that labour costs are our single largest expense. Every year, government spends $5.2 billion on labour costs, that's 52 cents for every tax dollar we spend. As employers begin the collective bargaining process, we know their efforts will build on the last round of wage agreements, agreements that were among the most lucrative in Canada.
These agreements outpaced economic growth and have added hundreds of millions of dollars to our province's expenses.
Our new approach to collective bargaining clearly states that we will protect and preserve the services Nova Scotians need. Furthermore, we will not ask taxpayers to shoulder a heavier tax burden to fund wage increases. There is only so much money available.
We respect and appreciate the hard work of public sector employees. That is why the province's plan gives employers room to negotiate.
Anyone suggesting that we are demanding a five-year wage freeze is wrong. All we have said is our plan allows room for growth and that plan must be respected.
We have also said that if unions want a larger increase than the one outlined in our government's plan, they need to be creative. If frontline employees can find ways to operate more efficiently and if those changes create concrete savings, we are willing to share those savings with our hard-working employees.
That is the first way our approach is different. If union leaders want bigger wage increases, they need to bring forward new ideas that will protect and preserve our public services.
The second way our approach is different is that we are being open and transparent. That's why we are posting our entire approach online for all Nova Scotians to see. This approach puts the interests of all Nova Scotians first. For more information, visit http://novascotia.ca/PublicServiceSustainability/ .
I want to assure Nova Scotians we have not demanded a wage freeze over the life of the agreement.
I also want to assure Nova Scotians our plan will protect, preserve, and strengthen core services, like health care and education. You deserve that. The outcome of our negotiations will be a province on stronger financial footing. This will mean we can keep investing to reduce health care wait times, strengthen our education system, and improve home care.
We are willing to co-operate for the good of all Nova Scotians, unions leaders must be willing to do that, too. Then best way to do that is to join employers at the bargaining table.