In an interview on December 16, Premier McNeil announced he is targeting the Public Service Award for Civil Service employees in the next round of negotiations. Click on the following link to read the article:http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1258111-nova-scotia-premier-takes-aim-at-bonuses-for-exiting-civil-servants.
In the same article, President Jessome defended the Award, and pointed out that Civil Service employees do not receive bonuses or any other incentives for their service to the province. The Award recognizes an employee’s dedication to public service over the years.
The Award also helps attract and retain talented public servants who might otherwise be recruited by the private sector. This is particularly important at a time when so many of our young people are leaving the province in search of better opportunities elsewhere.
It is interesting to recall what McNeil was saying just over a year ago, on November 25, 2013, about how much he appreciated the work of Civil Service employees: “I have come to appreciate the great work you do and the differences your efforts make in the lives of Nova Scotians. I look forward to partnering with you in serving Nova Scotians in the years to come.” This is a strange way to show his appreciation!
The next round of bargaining will be difficult. Through comments made by the Premier, the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board and the government’s Speech from the Throne, we know they are looking at wage restraint, lengthening the terms of the collective agreement, and now the Civil Service Public Service Award.
It is clear to us that other employers are getting the Premier’s message to target similar benefits when they negotiate. Referred to as a Long Service Award or a Retirement Allowance outside of the Civil Service, the Nova Scotia Pension Corporation recently tabled a proposal to eliminate the Long Service Award for all new hires. Local 48’s Bargaining Committee stood firmly against this concession and the benefit remains in their collective agreement.
Cutting benefits and restraining wages is the wrong direction for Nova Scotia. Economists generally acknowledge that the way out of financial problems is not to further shrink the economy. Public employees pay taxes and spend their money locally which supports the private sector. When an economy is fragile, the last thing you want to do is create a climate where people stop spending.
Some members have asked us if the government could remove a Public Service Award/Long Service Award/Retirement Allowance through legislation. This is quite possible. McNeil may go the legislative route because the government would be unsuccessful in negotiating the removal during bargaining. This government has repeatedly shown they are not afraid to use legislation to take away workers’ rights through Bill 30, 37, and Bill 1.
The NSGEU and your Bargaining Committee will be defending your working conditions, rights, and benefits during the next round of negotiations. Please do all you can to support our efforts at the bargaining table. Keep informed by reading any updates we send and visit our website regularly. You can also join our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/nsgeu.