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Danny Cavanagh: Once again we ask, is the Nova Scotia Government above the law?

The Nova Scotia Government is attacking its unionized crown attorneys in the middle of their bargaining.

The crown attorneys in Nova Scotia have had the right to arbitration since 2000, and they further secured a 30-year extension to that right in June 2016. The right to collective bargaining is a Charter right for workers in Canada, a right that has been upheld in many legal challenges across the Country. Eight of our provincial unions are now heading to the NS Supreme court in after this same Liberal government brought down its legislative hammer on thousands of our public sector workers with Bill 148.

If we need to live up to contracts such as the one for the Ferry, why does the same not apply to our unions’ rights to collective bargaining? Bill 203 abolishes binding arbitration for Crown attorneys and replaces it with the right to strike limited by essential services provisions.

Premier MacNeil believes the legislation will not hurt his government’s standing with other bargaining units, because “I don’t believe it will,” he says.

We know he and his Cabinet want to set a low wage pattern.
The Government offered Crown attorneys a 7.2% wage increase over four years while the  prosecutors would be looking to have an arbitrator hand them as much as 17%.  That is essentially an admission by the government that they want to keep wages low.

Bill 203 is squarely aimed at undermining the negotiations of the attorneys now. It is also built to send a message to our 10,000 teachers who are in bargaining and other unions who, in the next 18 months, will also be heading into negotiations.

Trust is enormous at the bargaining table, and this is not negotiating in good faith. This sends a message that the government is driving people to take strike action as a solution. They know full well that the majority of the attorneys will be declared an essential service and render strike action ineffective.
We will stand solidly behind the Crown prosecutors in the province and defend unionized workers’ rights to collective bargaining.

It’s shameful that the government put this Bill in the legislature amid contract talks. Let’s have a conversation about the cost of losing in the courts versus keeping wages low.

This government needs to make better choices. They seem to have no issue when it comes to huge handouts through privatization. If they stopped handing out millions to their corporate friends, the cupboard wouldn’t be bare. 

No government should be allowed to write a law to break the law. 

Danny Cavanagh is president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour

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