NSGEU to challenge wage package bill in court – Nova Scotia

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) has given notice to the provincial government that it intends to challenge Bill 148 in court.

Last week, the Liberal government announced it was proclaiming Bill 148, which defines a wage package for all 75,000 public sector workers currently without a contract. This includes health-care workers and members of the civil service.

The notice of intended action states the union intends to ask the Nova Scotia Supreme Court to rule Bill 148 unconstitutional and in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

NSGEU members ‘fed up’

A copy of the notice says it was sent to lawyer Edward Gores with the provincial government on Wednesday.

“Our members are fed up,” said NSGEU president Jason MacLean on Wednesday. “They already gave me direction, if [Bill 148] was going to be proclaimed to go ahead and challenge it, and that’s where we are today.

“We believe the bill in its entirety is unconstitutional, and that’s what we’re challenging.”

MacLean called the bill “punitive” and said it takes away members’ freedom of association and freedom of expression.

Province submitted sections for review

The provincial government said previously that the legislation would be sent to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal for an opinion on its constitutionality.

NSGEU president Jason MacLean said members will attend a rally at Province House on Sept. 21 to oppose the bill. (CBC)

But MacLean said only parts of the bill were being sent for review.

“When you look at those pieces alone, it brings them out of context,” MacLean said.

“If McNeil would take it to the Court of Appeal in its entirety, we would have an expedited answer. We’d have it in approximately six months. But he seems to want to play games with Nova Scotians.… He’s entering into a much more expensive situation by going through the courts to fight it.”​

​Government ‘confident’ in the legislation

While no one from the provincial government was available to speak to CBC News directly, director of media relations Tina Thibeau emailed a statement on Wednesday evening.

“It is their right to initiate action. We are confident in the legislation. Our position will be advanced in court,” she said.

MacLean said while they wait for a court date, NSGEU members will be joining in a rally held by the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour at Province House on Sept. 21 to oppose the bill.

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