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An important ruling by a government-appointed arbitrator in Nova Scotia could restore a 3% wage cut imposed in 1994 on public sector workers earning $25,000 or more.

Technically, the ruling applies only to 5,700 hospital workers in Halifax but CUPE Nova Scotia says the government has no option but to extend it to all 50,000 public sector workers rolled back by the province.

“It should be automatic,” says Nova Scotia president Fraser Morrison. “The arbitrator recognized that the rollback period ended November 1 and that previous rates of pay should again be in effect,” he said.

“There’s not much to argue about. Provincial employees have contributed more than their fair share to the government’s restraint program by doing without 3% of their pay for more than three years.”

Morrison said the ruling gives Liberal Premier Russell MacLellan a chance to demonstrate that he is fair.

“He should act quickly to extend this ruling to everyone who was rolled back. Then we can get on with the real issue – which is a long overdue new round of contract bargaining for all public sector workers in Nova Scotia.”

Agreements for CUPE’s 11,000 Nova Scotia members expired at the end of October.

Most have not had a wage increase or bargained a new contract since 1991. Instead, they have been subjected by the government to repeated wage freezes and rollbacks. CUPE has identified job security and wage increases as its main goals when bargaining resumes.