Contract talks will resume Friday in an effort to avoid a strike by more than 7,000 unionized support staff at Nova Scotia’s rural hospitals and schools.

“This is absolutely what we were looking for,” said Danny Cavanaugh, a spokesman for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

He said Thursday his union had heard from a conciliator and that bargaining teams were preparing to return to the table.

But Cavanaugh said if there’s no deal by the strike deadline of 6 a.m. Monday, workers will walk off the job.

Negotiations for hospital employees resume Friday while talks involving school employees were to restart on the weekend.

All of the employees involved — about 4,100 hospital workers and 3,000 school support staff — work outside of the Halifax region.

The union says the key issue is maintaining wage parity with their counterparts in Halifax.