August 19, 2015 4:50 pm
Updated: August 19, 2015 5:01 pm

Labour lawyer predicts ugly negotiations between unions, province


WATCH ABOVE: Hundreds of collective agreements are set to expire in Nova Scotia, and the first meeting between the two sides didn’t start off on the right foot. Global’s Dave Squires reports.

HALIFAX – It’s expected to be a year of unrest in the province’s public service sector as hundreds of collective agreements are set to expire.

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The unions representing more than 50,000 Nova Scotia government employees met with Finance Minister Randy Delorey on Tuesday. After that meeting, union leaders said the province would mandate that all future labour agreements be at least five years in length and that there will no new money. The province disputes this claim.

Delorey said there will not be any tax increases and unions will have to be creative to find money.

On Wednesday, the union leaders were still reeling from the presentation.

“I think we’re still in shock,” said Joan Jessome, the president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union.

“This meeting was not in good faith,” said Lana Payne, Unifor’s Atlantic director.

Derek Brett, a labour lawyer and expert with Burnside Law Group, said although negotiations with government have yet to begin, talks have already started on the wrong foot.

“I think at this point both sides don’t trust each other,” said Brett.

Jessome said the province has set the stage for chaos during negotiations in the public sector workplace.

“It’s going to pit worker against worker, service against service, department against department, benefit against benefit,” she said.

“It’s going to be ugly. It’s going to be demoralizing. [It’s] A total lack of respect.”

Brett said he expects negotiations will be long and will more than likely reach an impasse.

“There are going to be strikes unless the government tries some type of maneuver to prevent them,” said Brett.

In an interview with Global News, Delorey said he is hoping both sides will come to the table in good faith and he hopes that negotiations don’t get ugly.

“I certainly hope that it’s not. But I can’t dictate or manage how other parties enter into negotiations,” he said.

No dates have yet been set for talks.

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