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DANNY CAVANAGH: Once again, we ask: ‘Is the Nova Scotia government above the law?’

22-10-2019

From left, Perry Borden, President of the NSCAA, Shane Russell, vice -president of the crown attorney's association (NSCAA), and Rick Woodburn, a lead negotiator, commiserate before their news conference at Province House on Tuesday. The NSCAA announced that beginning in the morning of October 23rd, it will be withdrawing crown attorney services as a job action to counter the province's passing of Bill 203 that they say guts their existing collective agreement. - Tim Krochak

The Nova Scotia government is attacking its unionized Crown attorneys in the middle of their bargaining.

 

The Crown attorneys in Nova Scotia have had the right to arbitration since 2000, and they further secured a 30-year extension to that right in June 2016. The right to collective bargaining is a Charter right for workers in Canada, a right that has been upheld in many legal challenges across the country. Eight of our provincial unions are now heading to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court after this same Liberal government brought down its legislative hammer on thousands of our public sector workers with Bill 148.

 

If we need to live up to the terms of contracts such as the one for the Yarmouth-to-Maine ferry, why does the same not apply to our unions’ rights to collective bargaining? Bill 203 abolishes binding arbitration for Crown attorneys and replaces it with the right to strike limited by essential services provisions.

 

Premier Stephen McNeil believes the legislation will not hurt his government’s standing with other bargaining units, because “I don’t believe it will,” he says.

 

We know he and his cabinet want to set a low-wage pattern.

 

The government offered Crown attorneys a 7.2-per-cent wage increase over four years while the prosecutors would be looking to have an arbitrator hand them as much as 17 per cent. That is essentially an admission by the government that they want to keep wages low.

 

Bill 203 is squarely aimed at undermining the negotiations of the attorneys now. It is also built to send a message to our 10,000 teachers who are in bargaining, and other unions which, in the next 18 months, will also be heading into negotiations.

 

Trust is enormous at the bargaining table, and this is not negotiating in good faith. This sends a message that the government is driving people to take strike action as a solution. They know full well that the majority of the attorneys will be declared an essential service, which would render strike action ineffective.

 

We will stand solidly behind the Crown attorneys in the province and defend unionized workers’ right to collective bargaining.

 

It’s shameful that the government put forward this bill in the legislature amid contract talks. Let’s have a conversation about the cost of losing in the courts vs. keeping wages low.

 

This government needs to make better choices. It seems to have no issue when it comes to huge handouts through privatization. If it stopped handing out millions to corporate friends, the cupboard wouldn’t be bare.

 

No government should be allowed to write a law to break the law.

 

Danny Cavanagh is president, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour.

 

https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/local-perspectives/danny-cavanagh-once-again-we-ask-is-the-nova-scotia-government-above-the-law-366765/