Public Services Sustainability

Collective bargaining updates from the Nova Scotia Government.

Healthcare Collective Bargaining Update

Arbitrator Bill Kaplan files a supplementary award to the August 8, 2018 mediation-arbitration award regarding shift and weekend premiums for healthcare workers, one of the four councils/bargaining units within the Councils of Unions.

CUPE (Local 1867) Highway Workers Collective Bargaining Update

Arbitrator Bill Kaplan files a decision in the mediation-arbitration process between the Nova Scotia Government and CUPE Local 1867, Nova Scotia Highway Workers Union.

The following is a statement from Mark Furey, Minister of Labour Relations:

“We welcome the arbitrator’s decision. It maintains our wage pattern, with a seven percent wage increase over six years, and provides the option for early payout of the public service award. This is in line with other recent settlements, including all other civil service employees. We remain committed to meaningful collective bargaining with public sector employees, while reaching agreements that are affordable for taxpayers. I want to recognize all parties for their hard work throughout this process and thank our highway workers for their valuable contribution to our province and the people of Nova Scotia.”

Healthcare Collective Bargaining Update

Arbitrator Bill Kaplan files a decision related to the Council of Health Care Unions, one of the four members of the Councils of Unions, which represents care providers other than nurses such as medical lab technologists, physiotherapists, social workers, pharmacists and many other roles.

The following is a statement from Mark Furey, Minister of Labour Relations:

“I want to thank all involved for achieving agreement on a number of substantial items, without disrupting health care services for Nova Scotians. This agreement is affordable and maintains our wage pattern, while providing some important items for healthcare workers. There is one more item the arbitrator will decide on next week (shift and weekend premiums) and we look forward to his final ruling.”

Dates for mediation-arbitration for the remaining councils are:

Council of Health Support Unions – September 25, 2018
Council of Health Administrative Professional Unions – September 19, 2018
Council of Nursing Unions – November 19-23, 2018

Members of the four unions that make up the Health Care Councils of Unions ratify an agreement with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and IWK Health Centre to accept a final and binding mediation-arbitration process to resolve outstanding issues not addressed through collective bargaining. The mediation-arbitration process must be completed for all four councils by the end of 2018 unless all parties agree to an extension.

The following is a statement from Mark Furey, Minister of Labour Relations:

“This agreement will bring more stability to our health care system, avoid the disruption that a strike would cause for patients, their families and healthcare workers and it will resolve outstanding issues in a timely way.”

The Nova Scotia Health Authority, IWK Health Centre and Province of Nova Scotia reach agreement in principle with the Health Care Councils of Unions to create a mediation-arbitration process to resolve any outstanding issues following collective bargaining. As part of the agreement, the parties suspend the right to strike or lock out. The Councils of Unions includes the Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions, Nova Scotia Council of Nursing Unions, Nova Scotia Council of Health Administrative Professional Unions and the Nova Scotia Council of Health Support Unions. The agreement requires ratification by union members.

Civil Service Collective Bargaining Update

An arbitrator has filed a decision under the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act regarding the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union. The following is a statement from Mark Furey, Minister of Labour Relations.

"The decision of the arbitrator came as the conclusion to a process that was fair for all involved. I want to thank the parties involved in the process for their efforts. The decision is fair and affordable – it can be managed within the province’s fiscal plan.

We accept the arbitrator’s decision and welcome the opportunity to move forward.

We want to take this opportunity to thank the hard-working employees within the civil service for their daily effort to provide expert service and make lives better for Nova Scotians."

Government Proclaims Public Services Sustainability Act

Government proclaimed the Public Services Sustainability Act on Aug. 22.

The act applies to all public-sector employers and employees -- unionized and non-unionized, with some exemptions. Physician residents and judges are exempt from the legislation and the act, as proclaimed, does not apply to physicians. Bargaining units with settled collective agreements and non-union public sector employees that are already compliant with the legislative framework, are also exempt. For example: teachers and Crown Attorneys.

The act outlines the amount of new money employers can offer for wages to their employees is three per cent over four years: 0 per cent, 0 per cent, 1 per cent, 1.5 per cent, and 0.5 per cent on the final day of the agreement.

Under the act, all public-sector employees will be eligible for the retirement allowance they have accumulated up to April 1, 2015.

The act does not impose agreements.

The act was originally introduced and passed in December 2015 to ensure that third-party arbitrators could not make decisions about public sector contracts with unions that determine the province’s future.

Proclamation came after negotiations with the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union reached an impasse, triggering an arbitration board.

The legislation will be referred to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal under the Constitutional Questions Act to obtain the court’s opinion on the now proclaimed law.

Civil Service Collective Bargaining Updates

NSGEU files for interest arbitration, in accordance with the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act

Government and NSGEU return to the table for two days of conciliation on August 8-9, 2017. The parties reach an impasse on August 8th.

The following is a statement from Labour Relations Minister Mark Furey:

“We are disappointed that a deal could not be reached with the NSGEU. We have exhausted all our options to reach an agreement through bargaining and both parties now agree that we’ve reached an impasse.

We appreciate the value, expertise and commitment of our public service employees, and respect their collective bargaining rights. We also understand that collective bargaining requires give and take, and we have been willing to negotiate a fair deal with the NSGEU, one that ensures the services Nova Scotians depend upon are sustainable – an essential building block for a stronger Nova Scotia, to create new jobs for young Nova Scotians and more opportunity for the middle class.
We'll take time to thoroughly consider our options.”

Government and NSGEU agree to return to conciliation. Labour Board hearing on August 8-9, 2017 is cancelled and August 8-9 dates are booked for conciliation. Government confirms with the NSGEU that if agreement cannot be reached, it will not contest an impasse.

Minister of Labour Relations Appointed

Premier appoints Mark Furey as Minister responsible for Labour Relations, a new cabinet responsibility to focus on contract negotiations and government’s relationship with public sector unions:

Civil Service Collective Bargaining Updates

NSGEU cancels additional dates for conciliation on May 30-31, 2017 and applies to Labour Board for hearing to determine whether to proceed to interest arbitration.

Government and NSGEU hold two days of conciliation April 19-20. NSGEU provides government with 15 new proposals in addition to those put forward in 2015. Government agrees to review proposals. Two more days of conciliation are booked for May 30-31, 2017.

NSGEU files for conciliation

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.

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:

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

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.

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.”

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

Latest resources:

NSTU Collective Bargaining Update

NSTU Collective Bargaining Update

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.



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.