Public Services Sustainability

The Teachers' Professional Agreement and Classroom Improvement Act was passed on February 21, meaning work can begin immediately to improve the teaching and learning environment in Nova Scotia.

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union is no longer in a legal strike position.

Backgrounder.pdf (PDF 206 kb)

NSTU Collective Bargaining Update

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development sent two directives to Nova Scotia school boards to take immediate steps to address some classroom concerns:

No Fail Policy (PDF 32 kb)
Student Attendance (PDF 35 kb)

Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development Karen Casey sent two letters to the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union:

PowerSchool (PDF 32 kb)
Funding Commitment (PDF 34 kb)

For additional background information on the proposed Teachers’ Professional Agreement and Classroom Improvement Act see Feb. 14th update.

NSTU Collective Bargaining Update

Today, Feb. 14, government is introducing legislation that will address classroom conditions and provide a fair wage package to the province's teachers.

Negotiations have been underway since 2015. See timeline.

For additional background information on the Teachers’ Professional Agreement and Classroom Improvement Act see backgrounder.

Background information (PDF 494 kb)
Timeline (PDF 490 kb)

NSTU Collective Bargaining Update

The following is a statement from Premier Stephen McNeil:

“This week, the third deal recommended by the Nova Scotia Teachers' Union to its membership failed in a ratification vote. This was the third deal -- all were reached at the bargaining table and recommended by the union.

The latest deal contained fair wage increases and made investments in classrooms. It showed we wanted to work with teachers to make our classrooms stronger.

After three tentative agreements, it is clear there is an impasse.

The strike action by the union has impacted students and their families for too long. The union's actions and directives have caused harm to students -- to their learning outcomes, university and college ambitions, and athletic aspirations. This is not acceptable and can no longer continue.

I wrote the speaker and requested he call back the legislature on Monday, Feb. 13.

I want to assure Nova Scotians that I have done considerable soul searching. It is clear: we must bring an end to this dispute so the lives of students and parents can return to normal.

On Monday, we will table legislation that will bring an end to this dispute as soon as possible.”

Letter to Speaker (PDF 23 kb)

NSTU Collective Bargaining Update

Members of the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union voted to reject a tentative contract reached with the Nova Scotia government on Jan. 20, 2017.

"The outcome of today's union vote is disappointing for students, parents, and government,” Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey. “This was the third tentative agreement reached with the union leadership and it was reached after an intense and productive period of bargaining.

“This agreement provided a fair wage offer and showed we were willing to make further investments in classrooms. The agreement contained $20 million that we could invest to improve classroom conditions and it gave teachers a say in how that money would be invested.

“I want to assure parents and guardians that their child's education is a priority for government. We must now take time to consider the next step.”

The ratification vote was 78.5 per cent in favour of not accepting the tentative contact.

NSTU Collective Bargaining Update

Government reached a tentative agreement with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. The agreement will be recommended to members by the union’s provincial executive.

Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey said about the agreement: “I’m pleased to have reached this point. Both government and the union worked hard to come to this agreement. Now the members will have their opportunity to vote through ratification.”

As part of the agreement, work to rule action will be suspended and phased out beginning Jan. 23. Government has begun working with school boards and the union to begin that transition. On Jan. 27, NSTU announced the work to rule action will resume on Jan. 30.

Details of the tentative agreement will not be released until the agreement is ratified by union members.
A ratification vote is scheduled for Feb. 8, 2017.

The last agreement with teachers expired on July 31, 2015.

Civil Service Collective Bargaining Update

NSGEU bargaining unit members voted to reject the tentative agreement on December 14, 2016.
The following is a statement, in response, from Finance and Treasury Board Minister Randy Delorey:
"We respect the decision of our bargaining unit employees, however, we are disappointed the tentative agreement was not accepted. It was a fair and affordable deal that was negotiated by both sides. We have reached out and will wait to hear from the union about the next step."

NSTU Collective Bargaining Update

Dec 13 Letter from Premier

Statement from Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey (PDF 23 kb)

Latest resources:

NSTU Collective Bargaining Update

Statement from Premier Stephen McNeil, November 25, 2016

NSTU Collective Bargaining Update

Letter to NSTU President Liette Doucet from Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey regarding a conciliation board proposal (PDF 68 kb)

Civil Service Collective Bargaining Update

The province started its negotiations with the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, October 21st, 2015. We are committed to meaningful collective bargaining that respects and values the role of civil servants and is affordable to tax payers.

Government reached tentative agreements with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union on Nov. 12, 2015 and Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union on Nov. 13, 2015. Union leadership in both cases recommended accepting the agreements.

On Dec.1, 2015, the NSTU membership voted to reject the tentative agreement. Negotiations resumed and a second tentative agreement was reached on Sept. 7, 2016. On Oct. 4, 2016, the NSTU membership voted to reject the tentative agreement.

On Dec. 2, 2015 NSGEU leadership said it would delay its planned vote on their tentative agreement.

Current Status of Public Sector Agreements (as of Jan. 20, 2017)

Including the Civil Service, Health, Education and Community Services

Contracts that have expired:
Contracts that will expire this year:
Contracts that have been settled:
Tentative Agreements:

Total Employee Compensation Growth

Growth in Employee Compensation Per Worker
Compound Annual Average: 2000-2013

Government Education Sector: 3.5%; Government Health Sector: 4.3%; Provincial Civil Service: 4.1%.  Nominal GDP, 3.3%; Consumer Price Index, 2.2%, Employee Compensation for Non-Government Workers, 2.1%

Source: CPI inflation from Statistics Canada CANSIM table 326-0021; employee compensation from CANSIM table 383-0030
(Provincial Civil Service is the Provincial and Territorial Government Services); nominal GDP from CANSIM table 384-0038

Previous Updates

Nova Scotia Public Sector Labour Snapshot, August 2015

  • The Nova Scotia Public Sector employs approximately 75,000 people
  • About 60,000 are unionized employees working in the public service, at crown corporations and agencies, and in the K-12, post-secondary, health and community social services sectors
  • The government and public sector employers spend about $5.2 billion, or 52% of total budget on compensation (includes unionized, management, non-unionized, and physicians)
  • Almost $4 billion, or 75% of these costs, are determined through public sector collective bargaining (see Total Union Compensation pie chart)
  • About 60,000 public sector employees have expired agreements to be negotiated under The Public Service Sustainability Mandate
  • Each 1% increase costs government $52 million and compounds over the years

Total Union Compensation
Almost $4 Billion

based on best estimates from 2014-2015

1,942 M - 51%
1,104 M - 29%
Civil Service
624 M - 16%
Community Services
150 M - 4%

Education, health care, seniors and helping those who need it most are services that are important to Nova Scotians. The public servants that deliver these and other services are valued and deserved to be paid fairly. That is why the Public Services Sustainability Act allows modest wage increases for public sector employees. Nova Scotians have told us that they can’t afford to pay more taxes. The increases in the Act are affordable.While the Public Services Sustainability Act passed the House of Assembly on Dec. 18, 2015, it has not been proclaimed into law.

If the province continues on its current path many communities will experience a declining standard of living as the economy shrinks and people, businesses and services increasingly concentrate in our central urban region. The scope for government to counter these trends, while grappling with expanding pressures on health and social services, will be progressively narrowed by weakening tax revenues and unsustainable levels of public debt.

– The [Ivany] Report of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building our New Economy

It is time for Nova Scotia to have a labour process that is built on collaboration, creativity, and improvement. The innovation, skills and commitment of public sector unions, employees and employers is needed. We are committed to working together through a meaningful labour process that reflects the value we place on public service professionals and respects what taxpayers and employers can afford. This new approach will lead to quality services we can afford and remain available not just today, but well into the future. Through this new approach public servants can share in the benefits of their contributions as savings are found and the fiscal situation improves.

Ivany Goal #19, Fiscal Health:

By 2024 the Province of Nova Scotia’s net debt to GDP ratio, which was 36.7% for the year ending March 31st, 2013, will be 30% or less.

Nova Scotia’s Four Year Fiscal Plan

In 2012, the Nova Scotia government spent $843 million to service its debt, equivalent to 10% of total departmental spending.

Government Expenses 2015-16

Employee Compensation
Grants, less wage bases (e.g. Health and Education)
Operating Costs
Debt Servicing Cost
Refundable Tax Credits
Pension Valuation Adjustment

Poor Economic Growth

Measured by GDP, since 1990 Nova Scotia has had the slowest economic growth of any province at 43.2% (total growth in real GDP 1990-2013), while the Canadian average was 71.4%.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much money does government spend on labour costs every year?

A. Government will spend $5.2 billion on compensation in 2015-16. Compensation includes wages and benefits. The annual cost is for union and non-union workers (including staff in school boards, health care and other government areas but not Crown corporations). Each one per cent increase in wages costs government $52 million. Union workers make up the majority of government employees.

Q. Why is government taking this approach to labour negotiations?

A. In most cases, employers such as the Nova Scotia Health Authority and school boards do the direct negotiations. A small number of civil service-related contracts are negotiated by the Public Service Commission on behalf of government.

We want to be open and transparent in outlining the challenge we face as we enter employer-employee negotiations. Government needs to stick to the fiscal plan and wants more collaboration with unions. The proposed Public Service Sustainability Mandate is a roadmap to better labour relations.

Perhaps most importantly, we want to move from confrontation to collaboration, from mistrust to openness and transparency. Too often our only interaction with unions is across the bargaining table. It doesn’t make sense to approach labour negotiations in the same confrontational manner we have seen in the past. We need to be working together because we share a common interest to put Nova Scotia on a stable economic footing.

Q. What’s new with this approach?

A. There are many ways it is different. Government is being crystal clear about our financial position and commitment to maintain its fiscal plan. For the first time, unions are aware of the instructions that will be given to employers as they negotiate contracts (called collective agreements). In fact, they were told before the employers were. The instructions – called the “mandate” -- were kept between government and employers before.

In addition, we are inviting our employees to share their innovative ideas on how we can deliver services to Nova Scotians. Savings could then be reinvested in wages.

Q. What is the fiscal plan?

A. Every year government delivers a budget and annual spending gets most of the attention. But part of the budget – as required by legislation – is the fiscal plan. It is a four-year forecast of government’s expected revenues and expenses. It’s included in the main budget document.

Q. Are you freezing wages?

A. No, we are not freezing wages for unionized employees. We are committed to our fiscal plan, which has wage increases built into it. That means there is a fixed amount of money to work with for labour settlements. We are asking public sector leaders to work with their members to come up with creative ways to deliver services to Nova Scotians. We know there is a tremendous amount of ingenuity and innovation with our employees—we want them to bring those ideas to the table.