Opposition leaders are accusing the NDP and union leaders of being in cahoots and faking tough negotiations.

Monday morning’s last-minute deal between the province and the Canadian Union of Public Employees was just political theatre, say Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil and Tory Leader Karen Casey.

CUPE was representing 4,000 rural health-care workers.

“At the end of the day, the union got exactly what they asked for months ago,” McNeil said.

“In my view, the union leadership and this government were using rank-and-file members of CUPE as a pawn.”

Casey said a deal could have been made in October, but needlessly pushing to the 11th hour caused cancelled surgeries and wasted resources.

“It was really, I believe, a game. It’s typical of a pattern this government has already established,” she said.

Deputy Premier Frank Corbett quickly dismissed the charges. He had some shots of his own, saying the Liberals have consistently shown no value for Nova Scotians and don’t get how collective bargaining works.

He said of McNeil’s charges: “He basically throws a large pail of water and hopes it hits something.”

The contract for CUPE health workers gives a retroactive 2.9 per cent raise to April 1 and one per cent raises this and next year. Effectively, it gives CUPE members the parity with Capital Health they had been seeking.

Corbett defended the timing of the deal, saying it simply took that long to be worked out.

“There were two parties, and it takes two parties to agree on the issues at hand. So that took us to eight o’clock on Monday morning to get to it,” he said. “It’s a matter of just not one side capitulating and saying, ‘That’s it,’” he said.

The issue is likely to keep recurring as the government has approximately 200 contracts to negotiate in the coming year.