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Welcome to the wacky world of collective bargaining in Nova Scotia

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Premier Stephen McNeil says Nova Scotia's 75,000 public sector workers are welcome to bargain collectively -- so long as they don't expect to negotiate wages. The government has determined those.

Working conditions? Sure. Negotiate away, but not as part of the collective bargaining process. And since they won't be part of the contract, don't expect the government to pay attention.

Of course, if the workers are unhappy with what the government -- in its infinite wisdom -- has decided is their fair wage and generous working conditions, they can request arbitration. Unless, of course, they're doctors, who no longer have that right. Or everyone else, who has the right to arbitration but only if the arbitrator promises not to arbitrate.

But not to worry. The government says it doesn't plan to implement Bill 148 -- also known as the Public Service Sustainability Act -- if its workers obey each and all of its provisions anyway. Otherwise...

Welcome to the un-wonderfully wacky world of public sector collective bargaining, Stephen McNeil-style.

Bill 148 -- the law the government has said it doesn't plan to proclaim, but was so desperate to ram through the legislature it forced MLAs to pull pre-Christmas all-nighters, corked public input and even managed to gratuitously insult a deaf Nova Scotian in the process -- will likely eventually end up on the judicial garbage heap as yet another violation of citizens' Charter rights to collective bargaining.

But the courts won't rule until later, until after the McNeil government has squeezed the last drop of water -- and publicity -- from the stone of public sector wages in order to create its faux balanced budget, after which it will declare victory and launch its re-election campaign.

Even though the province's own recent fiscal update makes clear our problem is declining revenues rather than escalating expenses, the government seems obsessed with reducing revenues while slashing expenses.

To save the $25 million the province's film tax credit cost, for example, the government gutted an entire industry that contributed far more than it cost. Ah, well...

And now it is hell-bent on strangling a public sector that pays taxes, buys houses, cars, goods, services, and contributes to society.

If we're not careful, this government will save us to death.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Follow/flickr

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