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Nova Scotia court grants intervenor status to unions in Bill 148 review

A photo taken from a rally against Nova Scotia's Bill 148 on Sept. 21, 2017. Alexander Quon/Global News

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has granted intervenor status for eight unions in the court’s review of Bill 148.

The decision will allow the unions to make representations as the court tests the constitutionality of Nova Scotia’s controversial wage legislation, also known as the Public Services Sustainability Act.

READ MORE: Fate of Nova Scotia wage legislation unclear says lawyer

Bill 148 was proclaimed on August 22, 2017, and among other things, entails a three per cent cap on wage increases in the public sector over four years and freezes the long service award.

The long service award for public-sector workers functions as a retirement bonus. Government officials have estimated the long service award costs the government about $40 million a year.

In response to warnings from both unions and opposition parties that the bill would not stand up to a charter challenge, the government has asked the Court of Appeal to review the bill’s constitutionality.

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“We have confidence in the legislation, we believe in the best interests of all parties that the question requires clarity and we’re prepared to ask that question,” said Labour Relations Minister Mark Furey at the time.

However, as reported by Global News, the original question sent to the Court of Appeal limits the court’s review to sections seven through 19 of the act.

Those sections cover the creation of a board to oversee the implementation of the wage bill and the wage pattern that mandates a two-year wage freeze followed by a three per cent wage increase over two years.

WATCH: N.S. Liberals leave out contentious portion of Bill 148 in request for constitutional review

Click to play video: 'N.S. Liberals leave out contentious portion of Bill 148 in request for constitutional review' N.S. Liberals leave out contentious portion of Bill 148 in request for constitutional review
N.S. Liberals leave out contentious portion of Bill 148 in request for constitutional review – Aug 24, 2017

The government did not originally ask the court to review the subsequent sections of the bill including the part that freezes the long service award retroactive to April 1, 2015, and strips it from future employees.

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That area is what the province’s unions have long pointed to as the most likely to fail a constitutional test.

In October, Premier Stephen McNeil amended the government’s request for judicial review so that it would include the portion of the legislation that freezes the long service award.

The unions that have been given intervenor status include:

  1. Canadian Union of Public Employees
  2. Canadian Union of Postal Workers
  3. Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union
  4. Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union
  5. Nova Scotia Teachers Union
  6. Service Employees’ International Union Local 2
  7. Unifor
  8. International Union of Operating Engineers Local 727

— with files from Marieke Walsh and the Canadian Press 

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