About 500 union members and supporters gathered on the Halifax Commons yesterday to take part in the 12th annual Labour Day rally and picnic.

And while union representatives celebrated gains made over the past year, they also called shame on the unemployment levels in Nova Scotia and across the country.

“We have a problem,” Kyle Buott told the crowd.

Buott, spokesman for the Halifax-Dartmouth District Labour Council, said his organization is also calling for stronger pubic pensions, higher minimum wages and easier access for workers to join unions.

But despite those challenges, the mood at the picnic was mostly positive.

Anne Marie Foote, a member of the CEP Local 232, said Labour Day shouldn’t be thought of as simply the last statutory holiday before fall.

“It’s not the end of summer for me, it’s one of the summer celebrations,” she said.

“It’s a day to celebrate the accomplishments that working people have had over many, many, many decades,” Premier Darell Dexter told the crowd.

Dexter said he thinks workers have a “renewed sense of optimism” about Nova Scotia and the economy.

His government just finished negotiations with the Nova Scotia General Employees Union — negotiations union representatives called a victory for both their members and the province.

“We’re getting through these things in a very reasonable way,” said Dexter. “For me, it’s about respect. It’s about having respect for (the workers) ... but it’s also about respect for a government that has to get through some very difficult financial times.”

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