The NDP government will decide this week whether to accept an offer for binding arbitration from the union representing the 930 Nova Scotia Community College workers who have set Oct. 20 as a strike date if a deal on a new contract isn’t reached.
Following a conference call among executive members last Thursday night, union president Alexis Allen said they will agree to binding arbitration because “it’s a way to avert a strike so students won’t lose their year or their term.”
Premier Darrell Dexter pledged Friday to review the proposal and promised to decide this week whether to enter into negotiations on the terms of an arbitration process.
But the premier made it clear while he’s open to the possibility of an arbitrated settlement, he’s also put a condition on the table.
He said the union has to realize the province is facing tough economic times and is saddled with a $592-million deficit. As a result, the terms of any proposed arbitration process must recognize that “we simply don’t have the money,” he said.
“The assumptions you go in with are as important as the arbitration itself,” he said.
Allen, whose colleagues voted 90 per cent in favour of strike action last month, said Friday she was concerned about the premier’s comments.
“There could be problems with that,” she said. “Arbitration is supposed to be done by an independent source … and if there are too many parameters, it’s not really an independent decision.”
Still, Allen said she wanted to hear from the premier before drawing conclusions.
On the table
The Nova Scotia Community College workers and faculty members are looking for a 2.9 per cent wage increase and improvements to medical benefits, noting that the government offered a similar package to public school teachers last year. The government is offering a one per cent raise.