A 90-minute-long strike came to a quick end yesterday morning, but not before crossed signals caused some awkwardness.

All-night negotiations between the province and the Canadian Union of Public Employees had failed to forge an agreement. As of the 6 a.m. strike deadline, the government hadn’t heard back on their final offer and assumed CUPE was in a blackout because they had walked away from the table. The trouble is, they hadn’t.

“We assumed — in retrospect wrongly — that they had walked away. So we had taken the position that that was it then, and we had to put our position out there,” Deputy Premier Frank Corbett told Metro yesterday.

Corbett released a harsh email to the media, criticizing the union for rejecting an offer of wage parity between 4,000 rural health workers and their Halifax colleagues.

“The union said that these negotiations were all about parity. We agreed on salaries,” read the email.

“The union is now saying parity is not enough. In fact, they’ve just been piling on more and more demands ... The union leadership obviously doesn’t accept the serious financial position that’s facing Nova Scotians.”

Then, an hour and a half after the deadline passed, CUPE accepted the government offer in principal. In fact, CUPE Nova Scotia leader Danny Cavanagh said he believes members will be “extremely pleased.”

But he wasn’t happy about Corbett’s email.

“In our view there was some misinformation there,” he said. “We’ve maintained all along that we would remain at the bargaining table until we reached a settlement.”

The government had been trying to hold wages to one per cent. CUPE was seeking wage parity with Capital Health employees, who receive 2.9 per cent annual raises.

Typically, details of a contract aren’t released until membership votes — which could take up to two weeks — but because of Corbett’s email, Cavanagh confirmed they had received parity.

Corbett was also pleased, saying, “In essence, they’ve got wage parity and we’ve got wage certainty. So we’re happy with that.”

Criticism
Opposition leaders Stephen McNeil and Karen Casey criticized the government yesterday for not resolving the issue earlier to avoid confusion in the health-care sector.