It has been a busy week and I wanted to update you on the current situation. The week started with Stephen McNeil bringing into effect Bill 148 – Public Services Sustainability (2015) Act. This Bill does two things:
1. Restricts collective bargaining on wages and salaries by imposing maximum increases.
- Imposes a four year term on renewal of expired collective agreements except the collective agreements of municipalities and universities
- Freezes wage rates for a two year period from the expiry of the current collective agreement
- Restrains increases in wage rates for the remaining two years following the freeze at 1% in the third year, and 1.5% in the fourth year, with an additional 0.5% on the last day of the fourth year
- Prohibits interest arbitrators from awarding rates of pay inconsistent with the four year restraint scheme
2. Prohibits the use of service after April 1, 2015 in calculating retirement allowances and ends the benefit altogether for hires after April 1, 2015.
- It prohibits the crediting of any service after April 1, 2015 in calculating the payment on resignation or retirement which is based on service
- It requires the amount of the payment based on service before April 1, 2015 to be paid at the wage rates in effect immediately before April 1, 2015
- No employee hired on or after April 1, 2015 will be eligible for a payment on resignation or retirement based on service
- Unions may not negotiate any new service award on retirement or resignation which is inconsistent with Bill 148
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the government of British Columbia acted unconstitutionally when it stripped away previously negotiated sections of the BC Teacher’s Agreement. What the McNeil government is trying to do here with the part two of their Bill 148 is the same thing.
At the government’s press conference, they said they had sent Bill 148 to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal for a legal opinion on its constitutionality. An opinion they said with confidence would come back in their favour.
That night Stephen McNeil did multiple media interviews and confirmed the Bill had been sent to the courts for review. Not less than 48 hours later we found out this is not the whole truth.
The McNeil Liberals only sent sections of the Bill to the court that were favourable to them. They did not submit the section that strips us of our retirement allowances.
Why is that?
Friends, after a year and a half of dealing with this government I have come to only one conclusion – Stephen McNeil views this as a game. A game he wants to win at any cost, including misleading our members and the public.
This is not a game. You have earned benefits through open and free collective bargaining. You have families that count on the wages you bring home and have worked hard and planned for your retirement. I will continue to stand up for you and hold Stephen McNeil accountable for his dishonesty.
On a CTV interview with Steve Murphy the Premier declared that he had cancelled the MLA transition allowance. This is not true. In fact, defeated Liberal MLA Michel Samson was given a transition allowance of $89,000. If Stephen McNeil were to retire today he would also get a transition allowance.
He will say anything to get his way.
When confronted by media about saying the transition allowance is gone – he stayed in his office and refused to be interviewed.
When questioned by media about not sending the entire bill to the courts for review – again, he stayed in his office and refused to be interviewed.
Together, we will continue to hold him accountable. We will continue to fight for what is right and to maintain what we have fought for and won over the years.
The Premier himself said he didn’t decide to be the third highest paid Premier in the country, it was there when he got there and he won’t roll it back. That’s all we are asking for.
If it’s fair enough for him, shouldn’t it be fair enough for us?
I’m asking you to contact your local MLA and encourage them to force McNeil to submit the entire Bill 148 to the court for review.
If your MLA is a Liberal I also encourage you to ask them if McNeil was honest with them when he only sent part of Bill148 for review. With a slim majority Liberal MLAs need to know we will be holding them to account as well.
The NSGEU will be continuing to challenge this legislation in the courts on your behalf. All that remains to be determined is if we do it ourselves or if we will do it in concert with others in the labour movement through the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour.