Two years, no contract

Darrell Cole
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Springhill police officers want talks to begin

SPRINGHILL - Unionized police officers in Springhill are growing tired at the slow pace of negotiations on a new contract.

In fact, there have been no talks since the union's last contract expired two years ago.

"We're heading into our third year with no contract," Police Association of Nova Scotia Local 203 president Const. Doug Williams said. "It's sort of frustrating because we don't know where we stand."

Like other municipal police departments, Springhill officers lost the right to strike when the province passed legislation guaranteeing binding arbitration - a system that has been used in other towns, like Amherst, for many years.

Still, in order for the issue to be sent to arbitration there have to be negotiations.

Williams said he was contacted by the town on Wednesday to start the process leading up to talks and he hopes to learn today when negotiations will begin. The veteran police officer expects wages to be the biggest issue on the table when talks eventually happen.

"We're one of the lowest paid in Nova Scotia," Williams said. "Expenses are increasing but the amount of money we get isn't."

The Springhill department has seven full-time police officers, two part-time officers and four dispatchers who are all unionized.

Mayor Guy Brown said the town wants to negotiate but had been told to hold off until an ongoing pension dispute between several towns and the Police Association of Nova Scotia is settled.

Police commission chair and town councillor Clarence Falconer said there has been miscommunication between the town and the union.

"As far as I'm concerned we should have had this resolved Nov. 1, 2005," Falconer said. "There have been some communication problems but I hope they have been overcome."

Seven years ago, Springhill was the scene of a divisive debate over the future of the police department. Council, under then mayor Mary Dee MacPherson, completed a study that considered switching to the RCMP.

The late Bill Mont ran successfully for mayor on a platform of maintaining the municipal department, which is one of the town's largest budget items.

Organizations: Springhill department, Police Association of Nova Scotia, RCMP

Geographic location: Springhill, Nova Scotia

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