NS NDP and NSTU request for binding arbitration

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NS NDP and NSTU request for binding arbitration


To summarize, the NDP government in NS has refused the NSTU's request for binding arbitration. Premier Dexter says they should continue to negotiate - that they should negotiate with the understanding that they cannot expect the raise they're asking for. Period. So no point in binding arbitration as the province has already made their terms clear. 1% max, not 2.9% - no matter what a neutral arbitrator decides.

Is this a little warped? A government sets the terms and then sends them back to "negoitate" and calls it "collective bargaining"?

I don't get it. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.


I should add that I am a member of the above club.

The party, not the union.


It is hard nosed. But there is in practice rarely such a thing as 'final offer- take it or leave it.' And this definitely isn't one of the exceptions.

Looks like the government decided that given that the 2.9% looks very reasonable, they wouldn't stand much of a chance in arbitration. And the NSTU choice was the converse- that they would have all the advantages, so why not ask for arbitration? Looks good too for the battle for hearts and minds.

Theres no point getting all wound up. Justice and substantive questions aside: in negotiations, if a proposal is weighted to one side, it aint going to fly unless the other side is ready to surrender. That doesn't happen at this stage of the game.

For those who don't know- 2.9% is what all the other unions have been getting for the last year. Sort term contracts that are almost run out by the time they are signed.

My guess- and it really is only a guess- is that this is a shot across the bow to all the provincial government unions that the 2.9% is off the table for everyone. As of now. And from there perspective, they start with a bargaining union that is comparatively limited in the amount of impact it will have on the public.


KenS - thanks for the explanation. A shot across the bow, indeed.

And limited in the amount of impact, meaning it's not the nurses.

Seems a shame though, when a union has been trying to negotiate a contract for more than a year and by the time they get to a strike situation the bank is broke. But that's a different kind of injustice. Nothing the new NDP government can do about it, is there? I am such a pathetic idealist.


Not the nurses, or teachers, or road workers who don't have the glow the nurses have but whose strike would hit everyone.

More background: 'trying to negotiate for a year' is the new norm. About two years after a contract ends in the public sector before negotiations get serious. I've always thought that endangered unions.

As to the bank being broke- in another thread I've argued against the CCPA saying that the deficit situation is hyped. But I wouldn't go so far to say 'the bank is broke'. While they aren't easy, the government has choices.

And a reminder that I'm only guessing that the government is using this bargaining unit of community college teachers to draw the line in the sand for all the public sector unions.]


An NSCC prof, Waye Mason, has a useful take on the potential strike (useful to instructors who get NO INFO from the union or NSCC management):


"As I tweeted the other day, I am equally frustrated with the union, the NSCC, and the government.

First up, I am not loving my union. The NSTU so far has not been really impressive, focusing on the public sector pattern and the implications for the rest of the public service.

The NSTU has their guns focused firmly on the Province. They are sitting on the same side of the table as the College, looking at government to hand over the money. The NSTU keeps referring to us as “public servants.”

This drives us college instructors crazy. CRAZY.

Now is not the time to dissect the NSTU, their motivations, their actions on our behalf. I voted to strike, for the record. I support the local, though my support is more nuanced than they might like.

Secondly, I am frustrated with the College. We are negotiating with a Board and senior management that either did not plan appropriately, or failed to make the political case for adequate funding to government, all the while planning expansions and launching new projects.

We are college instructors, we work for NSCC. Joan MacArthur-Blair is my boss, not Darrell Dexter.

I have gotten emails from my President telling me they don’t have the money, and the operating budget has already been cut.

What I would like more information on is what concrete austerity measures the college is taking in areas aside from salary. What steps are being taken to cut expenses around travel, around PD, around catering, around managerial compensation?

I know I don’t know and I don’t think other staff know how the cuts in the operating budget are impacting the college and where the college has cut to adjust to the new economic reality.

Right now, the raw numbers show our provincial grant has increased by 10.6% since 2007. Most staff, myself included, do not understand how that money is spent and how it is constrained by program commitments to the province.

I have asked for more information on how the college is adapting and what else is being delayed, downsized or cut entirely, but I have not received anything concrete from college leadership.

It would be nice to know what is really going on, that staff are not the only people and budget line being asked to sacrifice.

Finally, as an unreconstructed supporter of the election of Darrell Dexter’s NDP government, I am pretty frustrated with my friends in government and cabinet.

... ...

There is no way the public sector is getting more than 1% in 2010/11 and I applaud you for it.

That being said, Brother Darrell, you know damn well that we are not asking for 2.9% for next year, we are asking it for the current year. You got 2.9% this year, 2009, and so should I.

I accept that our pay year starts in August, yours in January, and I believe the public sector starts in April. So it is a bit of comparing apples and oranges. But, my friend, if you play with the math, we should get 1.9-2.2 percent this year, to be fair, given everyone else already got their raise.

What if you turn the tables on the NSTU? Say this “Folks, I can give you 2.9% in 08, 2% in 09, and 1% in 10.” Make Joan and NSCC pay half of the 1% new offer. Establish the pattern for 2010 today. The NSTU staff won’t want to take this, but the college staff sure as heck will.

... ...

There are no winners here… though clearly, my poor students will be the losers if this drags on more than a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, I really think we will be on strike until the snow falls."



The NSTU is not an admirable union to most progressives. And while I don't know this, and don't know any NSCC instructors even second hand, it was a good guess even before reading this that having the NSTU as their union was shades of conflict of interest.

The NSTU is all about public school teachers. Period. And it was further a safe bet that this battle for the NSTU is a proxt battle between teachers and the government. NSCC staff are just cannon fodder for them.

And their own union referring to them as 'public servants' is pretty galling. The government insisting on classifying them as such has been a sore point for decades. And thats a material issue as well as one of principle.


I don't often take the side of the union, but in this case I do support the union.
I feel that binding arbitration is a fair way to mediate such disagreements without using students as pawns in the negotiation.

However, in this case, the provincial government is refusing to do so, and dictating the terms. I realize that this is a difficult economic climate, but regardless, binding arbitration will take that into account. What is the province afraid of? It is shameful that they are using the economic downturn as an excuse to take money away from public workers, while at the same time, we are throwing gobs of cash at private unions (GM etc).

One of the major problems with the union/strike model is that the union can have either no power, or disproportionate power depending on what services they have control over. Healthcare? Transit? Write your own ticket. Community colleg? - who cares, just some non-academic kids that the province doesn't care about.


[url=There">http://www.pdfdownload.org/pdf2html/pdf2html.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ns...'s a tentative agreement.[/url]

Perhaps we can stop the attacks on this union for a moment, while the members study the package?


Pogo Pogo's picture

Likewise during elections lets avoid criticizing the NDP.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture



Pogo wrote:

Likewise during elections lets avoid criticizing the NDP.

That's what the NSTU did - in fact, it seems as if it [url=http://www.nsfl.ns.ca/CLC%20leaflet%20generic.pdf]helped campaign to elect the NDP[/url]. Still, the Labour and Consumption forum looks to be an appropriate place to bash a union that's trying to get the same wage increase that the Premier probably did this year, so why not join in, I say?

ETA: Oh, by the way, here's the paragraph that sandpiper prudently omitted from his union-bashing "unreconstructed supporter" of the government and its attack on public sector employees:

Mr. Premier, I know you want to break the pattern, and I elected you to do that. We need to balance the budget, and this is more important than a raise for me, or any pet project. We are too far in debt as it is. The future of the province, my children, and my public sector pension depend on you balancing the books.

With unreconstructed supporters like this, who needs unrepentant enemies?

It's amazing the kind of excrement appears in the Labour and Consumption forum these days.


remind remind's picture

I feel the same way about all of babble and the feminsit forum.


I don't see people bashing the union here.  I see an internal debate between people who support unions.  The only comments I see that are somewhat union-unfriendly is, ironically, a post in support of the union, but which uses classic union-bashing language

I feel that binding arbitration is a fair way to mediate such disagreements without using students as pawns in the negotiation.

Collective bargaining is "using students as pawns"?  Classic anti-union rhetoric.

It is shameful that they are using the economic downturn as an excuse to take money away from public workers, while at the same time, we are throwing gobs of cash at private unions (GM etc).

We are throwing cash at the unions?  That's funny, I thought we were throwing it at the corporations.  I didn't realize the government paid the CAW directly.

Healthcare? Transit? Write your own ticket.

Really?  That's why the TTC was legislated back to work when they tried to strike, right?  That's why nurses get vilified when they strike, usually with similar rhetoric to the above, "using patients as pawns in the negotiation" - that is, when they aren't declared essential workers?

Community college? - who cares, just some non-academic kids that the province doesn't care about.

They don't care much about "academic kids" either - as I remember, York University TA's and part-time instructors got bashed pretty badly all around when they were striking for months last year.  And we heard a lot of "using students as pawns" rhetoric then, too.


Unionist wrote:

That's what the NSTU did - in fact, it seems as if it [url=http://www.nsfl.ns.ca/CLC%20leaflet%20generic.pdf]helped campaign to elect the NDP[/url].


Not that it is really relevant to the point, but for factual accuracy: teachers support the NDP in large measure, but they do so as individuals [and sometimes collectively out of their workplaces]. The NSTU most definitely does not.

Unionist wrote:
With unreconstructed supporters like this, who needs unrepentant enemies?

Your general point stands. But its worth noting that this comes from is deep and consistent discontent with the NSTU among a significant chunk of teachers. Some of the same people don't like how the leaders tend to be Liberals or tilt to Liberals, but that is not the source of their discontent. [IE, that would be completely acquiesced to if they were satisfied with their leadership's performance.]

Then you add to that the particular point being made by that individual. And there will always be some people who primarily identify as supporters of the NDP government, even if that conflicts somewhat with their own material interests, let alone their collective obligations.