Governing For All Nova Scotians

Today your Liberal government proclaimed the Public Services Sustainability Act. This act provides for fair wages while letting us invest in the services that benefit all Nova Scotians.

Our plan to build a stronger Nova Scotia includes more investments in health care and mental health services.

We are cutting class sizes and expanding our province’s pre-primary program.

We are investing in infrastructure to grow the economy.

Our investments in key sectors are growing the economy and creating jobs.

We are investing in programs to create more jobs for young Nova Scotians.

That is our plan. Those are the priorities of Nova Scotians. Those are the priorities of our government.

We want to keep making investments like these. That is why we need to proclaim this legislation.

We made this decision after two years of negotiations with the NSGEU. We were open with our approach, we consulted and bargained in good faith. We arrived at a tentative agreement with the union and its executive recommended the deal to its members.

Now that this act is proclaimed, negotiations will continue and arbitration can continue no contracts are imposed. Proclaiming this act safeguards the interests of taxpayers by ensuring we can make future investments that reflect the priorities of all Nova Scotians.  It does so by placing limits on what arbitrators can award.

We are also referring the Act to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal under the Constitutional Questions Act to obtain the court’s opinion on the now proclaimed law.

The decision to proclaim this legislation clearly signals our belief that elected officials sitting in the legislature are responsible for creating public policy. They are elected and can be held accountable by their constituents – that cannot be said of a third-party arbitrator.

Here are the key facts about this legislation.

Who the Act applies to:

The Act applies to all public sector employers and employees–unionized and non-unionized, with some exemptions.

Exempt from the Act:

Residents and judges are exempt from the legislation and the Act, as proclaimed, doesn’t 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 does not impose agreements.

What is included in the Act:

  1. Compensation Framework

The Act outlines that the new money employers can offer for wages to their employees is 3% over 4 years: 0%, 0%, 1%. 1.5% and 0.5% on the final day of the agreement. This is consistent with tentative agreements reached with other bargaining groups.

Compensation consists of all aspects of an employee’s compensation including: salary, wages, stipends, honoraria, fee bonuses and commissions. It does not include pensions, benefits, or vacation time.

Annual increments, or step increases, continue for eligible employees.

The Act allows for additional wage increases if savings can be identified (subject to approvals).

  1. Arbitration

The Act prevents arbitrators or arbitration panels from making public sector awards higher than the compensation framework. Arbitration can still continue.

  1. Freeze on retirement bonuses

The retirement bonus is a benefit for some public sector employees over and above their salaries and pensions, which become payable at the time of retirement or resignation. This is typically up to 26 weeks of pay, calculated based on years of service. Last year, the cost of the public service award was $53.5 million.

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

  • Service accumulation is frozen as of April 1, 2015.
  • No employee will lose the retirement allowance they have accumulated up to this point. Existing entitlements will be paid out upon retirement.
  • Future accrual will stop.
  • New employees (after April 1, 2015) will not be eligible for a retirement allowance.
  1. Sustainability Board

The Act, and new regulations, establish a new Public Services Sustainability Board responsible for dealing with issues arising from the interpretation and application of the legislation.

Government has appointed three members:

  • Margaret MacDonald (Chair)
  • Nelson Blackburn, Q.C (Vice Chair)
  • Doug Stewart (member)

Next Steps

The Act is now in effect, and outlines the framework for monetary items as collective bargaining continues with outstanding public sector groups. Negotiation on all matters can continue.

The legislation will be referred to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to express its view on the Act’s constitutionality.

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