N.S. govt, CUPE resume talks; hope to avoid strike at rural hospitals, schools

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HALIFAX - 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 that his union had heard from a conciliator and that bargaining teams were preparing to return to the table.
"We are hopeful now that both parties can reach an agreement through the free collective bargaining process."
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.
Deputy premier Frank Corbett said he was mindful that the clock is ticking.
"We've got four days left and I would hope that both sides see the value in making sure that there's nothing left on the table," he said as he emerged from a cabinet meeting Thursday.
Corbett said he wasn't planning on moving too far from his phone over the weekend.
"There's obviously pressure. Between now and Monday can be a lifetime for some people," he said.
The government has prepared contingency plans in the event of a strike, but the minister of health remained hopeful they wouldn't be needed.
"I hope there's a settlement. We're in a very sensitive period and I think it best not to be talking too much about this," said Maureen MacDonald.
"My focus is having to prepare for the possibility of a labour disruption."
So far, the province has offered a four-year contract with 2.9 per cent hikes in the first two years and one per cent for each of the remaining two years.
Employees want a three-year contract with 2.9 per cent increases each year. Their contract expired on March 31, 2007.

Organizations: Canadian Union of Public Employees

Geographic location: HALIFAX, Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Jeremy
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Im not holding my breath, Ill be passing my keys in tonight and will be prepared to picket Monday but I sure hope it gets solved. I think the government should look at the top of the school board if they wanna save money stop making up jobs for friends and paying them 60,000 - 100,000 a year meanwhile the poor guy at the bottom just wants a losey 1.9 more % than what was offered

  • concerned
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Talks between the healthcare workers and the government broke down in October. Both groups have been offered a one per cent wage increase but they are holding out for a 2.9 per cent increase for the first year of a three-year deal, to keep wages on par with that received by CUPE employees in Halifax.

    I think that the reporter has confused the healthcare contract with the school support staff contract - the healthcare contract expired March 2009 - not 2007 - and the main issue is parity ( which has been in place for 10 years )