11/26/2013 09:52 EST | Updated 01/26/2014 05:59 EST

Arbitrator's ruling in Nova Scotia paramedic dispute disappoints union

HALIFAX - The union that represents Nova Scotia's 800 paramedics said Tuesday it was disappointed an arbitrator sided with their employer on a new collective agreement after more than three years of negotiations.

Terry Chapman, the union's business manager, said members wanted a higher wage increase in the new deal that expires Oct. 31, 2015.

"It is what it is," said Chapman in an interview. "Based on the worth to the public ... we feel we're worth more than we get."

Arbitrator J. A. MacLellan's decision awards increases totalling 10.6 per cent over four years and seven months, while the union wanted a 15 per cent hike over that same period.

Before the matter went to arbitration, the union was asking for a 15 per cent pay hike over three years.

The arbitrator's decision said the parties have agreed on a defined benefit pension plan, one of the union's key demands.

In his decision, MacLellan said he considered a tentative agreement that was endorsed by the union's bargaining team, wage increases in the public sector and the province's economic situation in siding with Emergency Medical Care.

"This selection cannot and will not please the union membership," said MacLellan, who was tasked with choosing one of the final offers without making changes.

"I wish I had the ability to tweak the final offers."

Stacey Brown, a spokeswoman for Emergency Medical Care, thanked employees for their professionalism during the three-year process.

"We're moving forward and continue to work together on our commitment to delivering the highest quality patient care to Nova Scotians," she said in an email.

The former NDP government introduced legislation this past summer to send the matter to binding arbitration and avert a possible strike.

Both sides had been negotiating since September 2011.

Union members had repeatedly rejected offers from Emergency Medical Care, even after a tentative settlement was reached in January with the help of a conciliator.