There is a better way – Nan McFadgen

The following speech was given by CUPE Nova Scotia President Nan McFadgen at the Rally to Protest Bill 148 on September 21, 2017, at the Nova Scotia Legislature.


Union members care.

We care about the residents in our nursing homes.

We care about increasing the number of staff in hospitals, so we all receive quality health care.

We care about increasing the number of educational assistants in our schools, to help teach our children.

We care about the quality of all the public services we deliver.

We care about Nova Scotia.

The choices made by the Liberal Government are hurting the province we love and are proud to call home.

They are not acting in the best interest of working people like you or me.

They are putting their own interests – and the interests of corporations – ahead of workers and their families.

Nova Scotians are already feeling the strain of cuts to nursing homes and the underfunding of many of our key services – like our hospitals, schools and universities – to mention a few.

The Liberals have proclaimed legislation that allows them to impose contracts on public sector workers and mandates a wage freeze with a wage increase that equals a rollback.

These attacks on public sector workers are unfair and likely unconstitutional.

They’ll also do serious damage to the economy.

What’s at stake is not only security for the people who deliver public services, but also security for all Nova Scotians who rely on these services every day.

The wage freeze will increase stress and frustration among workers.

It will encourage young people and skilled workers to leave the province.

Stephen McNeil would have you believe that there are no alternatives.

But he’s wrong.

We believe change is possible.

We can choose a Nova Scotia where we all have the chance for a better life.

With a government that shares our hopes – for security and well-being for our families.

The Liberal Government is for the wealthy and big corporations.

The government we want is for people like us.

The Liberals are focusing on their own agenda.

The government we want is focusing on making life better for all of us and our families.

The Liberals are cutting, privatizing and neglecting the services we count on.

The government we want should invest in strengthening services for families.

The Liberal Government should not have passed Bill 148 because they did not give contract negotiations a chance to work.

The Supreme Court has said all workers have the right to negotiate contracts without interference from laws like this one.

This legislation increases stress on workers, drives young people and skilled workers out of the province and hurts local economies.

These attacks as disrespectful and tough on families and will cause workers to fall further behind.

We don’t have to settle.

We can have a government that will face problems head on and fix the things that matter to us and our families.

Union members are fighting to deliver the services people count on and to grow our economy.

Better wages are necessary to get the economy growing and reduce inequality.

Suppressing public sector wages will eventually drive down private sector wages too.

Keeping wages down is one of the worst things to do to our economy.

There are steps the Nova Scotia Government can take to put people first to protect the public services we need and create good jobs and a stronger economy.

  • Strengthening collective bargaining legislation,
  • Creating new income tax rates, so top earners and corporations pay their fair share, and
  • Scheduling minimum wage increases to be indexed to economic growth or inflation.

Just to name a few.

This Liberal Government is stomping on workers’ rights and doing serious harm to our economy that will take many years to recover from.

This is not the province we want.

We want a government that shares our vision for a province – where we raise each other up.

It’s time to grow our economy – with decent wage increases – and a fairer share going to workers!

The Nova Scotia Liberal Government’s Attack on Workers

THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF BILL 148

Since 2013, public sector workers including teachers, nurses, school board and child care workers, civil servants, the arts community and many others – approximately 70,000 – have been subjected to unrelenting interference in the collective bargaining process by the Liberal government.

These attacks on public sector workers are unfair and likely unconstitutional. They’ll also do serious damage to the economy.

The wage restraint sections of Bill 148 are wage restraints, not imposed economic increases. For example, the economic increase in the third year cannot be more than 1%, meaning in theory something less could be negotiated, but nothing greater. 

The retirement allowance, a freely negotiated benefit, is being unfairly taken without being offset and in effect takes wages from members that have been deferred until retirement.

These wage restraints will reduce purchasing power as the rising cost of living outpaces wage gains. Better wages are necessary to get the economy growing and reduce inequality.

While business lobby groups and some politicians like to sow division between workers, public and private sector wages are linked. Suppressing public sector wages will eventually drive down private sector wages. Keeping wages down is one of the worst things to do to our economy.

Labour compensation and household spending are responsible for well over half of our country’s national income and spending and for more than 60 per cent of our economic growth since 2009. If labour compensation and consumer spending don’t increase at a decent and sustainable pace, then our economy won’t grow at a decent pace either.

It’s time to grow our economy with decent wage increases and a fairer share going to workers. 

 

THERE IS A BETTER WAY

Families in Nova Scotia are already struggling to make ends meet. Layoffs, wage freezes, cuts to public services, and attacks on unions are only making things worse.

There are steps the NS Government can take to put people first, protect the public services we need, create good jobs and a stronger economy.

The Liberal Government should recognize the public sector as a driver of economic growth. Top quality health care and education are important industries, not a drain on society.

Some specific measures that can help workers and families should include creating new income tax rates so top earners and corporations pay their fair share; scheduling minimum wage increases to be indexed to economic growth and/or inflation; and strengthening collective bargaining legislation.

THE MCNEIL GOVERNMENT IS STOMPING ON WORKERS’ RIGHTS

LEGISLATION

Bill 1
The Health Authorities Act restructured the health care system, unnecessarily reduced the number of bargaining units, and attempted to assign union representation rights.

Bill 19 
Trade Union Act amendments made it harder for workers to exercise their right to unionize and secure first collective agreements.

Bill 30 
The Essential Home Support Services Act directly interfered in the collective bargaining of home support workers.

Bill 37 
The Essential Health and Community Services Act limits job action rights of more than 40,000 workers in acute care, long term care, group homes, home support, child protection and other sectors.

Bill 75
The Teachers’ Professional Agreement and Classroom Improvement Act imposes a collective agreement on teachers after they rejected the contract terms three times.

Bill 100 
The Universities Accountability and Sustainability Act allows universities to override collective agreements during five-year “revitalization” periods.

Bill 148 
The Public Services Sustainability Act freezes and limits wage increases, sets the term of collective agreements and puts an end to long-service awards.

UPDATED: Reserve your seat on the bus – Rally September 21

Updated September 18 at 11 a.m. See bus stop changes  

When Premier McNeil opens the Legislature on September 21, CUPE Nova Scotia will be there as part of a rally organized by the labour movement from across the province. Please join us!

Along with CUPE National President Mark Hancock and CUPE Nova Scotia President Nan McFadgen, we’re going to send a clear message to the McNeil Government. We will defend our rights! We will not back down!

     WHAT: Multi-union rally against the NS Liberal Government’s Bill 148

     WHEN: September 21 from 12 to 3 PM

     WHERE: Nova Scotia Legislature

     WHO: Members of unions including CUPE, NSGEU, NSNU, NSTU, SEIU and others

Reserve your seat on the bus!

Seating is limited. Please RSVP as soon as possible.

CUPE members can reserve a seat on a bus. Please send an email to Nan McFadgen at nanmcf@icloud.com.

Bus #1 – Sydney

  • Be at the Mayflower Mall in Sydney at 6:30 AM for departure
  • St. Peters – CANCELLED
  • Stopping in Port Hawkesbury at the Irving Big Stop parking lot
  • Stopping in Antigonish – Exit 33, Shell gas station
  • Stopping in Pictou County—Walmart Parking lot
  • Stopping in Truro—Sobeys parking lot
  • Will arrive in Halifax by 12 PM
  • Leaving Halifax at 3:30 PM for return trip

Bus #2 – Yarmouth

  • Be at the Yarmouth Mall at 8:15 AM for departure
  • Stopping at Bridgewater Mall at the Sobey’s parking lot
  • Will arrive in Halifax by 12 PM
  • Leaving Halifax at 3:30 PM for return trip

Updates will be posted on the website at novascotia.cupe.ca.

 

Related articles:

Unions will seek to be added as parties as province tests constitutionality of portion of Bill 148 at Nova Scotia Court of Appeal

Trampling on Freedom of Association: The arrogance of Stephen McNeil

Unions will seek to be added as parties as province tests constitutionality of portion of Bill 148 at Nova Scotia Court of Appeal

The following news release was distributed by the the Nova Scotia federation of Labour this morning.

Halifax – This Friday, union leaders, including the CUPE, NSGEU, NSNU, SEIU, NSTU, CUPW and Unifor, will file to be added as parties at the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal in response to the Liberal Government’s latest attack on unionized workers.

On August 22, the government referred a portion of the Public Services Sustainability Act, otherwise known as Bill 148, to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal for review, namely the wage package. The government did not add the unions as parties to the proceeding, even though the employees they represent are directly affected by Bill 148. The Unions must now ask the Court for permission to participate in the proceeding. If they are not present, the interests of employees may be compromised. Party status will enable the unions to give evidence regarding the potential impact of the wage portion of Bill 148.

Although only the wage package is before the Court, the unions continue to press for the entire bill to be reviewed and tested for its constitutionality.

“As participants in the proceeding, unions can help protect the rights of workers being targeted by this government and speak to the adverse affect that Bill 148 will have on public sector workers,” says NS Federation of Labour President Danny Cavanagh.

The unions assert that since its inception in 2015, this bill has seriously impaired the prospect of fair and successful collective bargaining. The damage created by this bill, and others before it, will be expensive and will far exceed any short-term cost-savings to the government. Meanwhile, retaining and attracting skilled workers in Nova Scotia is sure to become much more difficult.

While other legal challenges are underway, labour leaders are steadfast in their resolve to defend their members at the Court of Appeal.

On August 22, the provincial government proclaimed Bill 148 that imposes a wage package and freezes a negotiated benefit known as the retirement allowance or service award. This benefit is eliminated for all new hires post April 2015.

 

The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour is the provincial voice of the Labour Movement, representing 70,000 members in over 400 union locals. 

Let’s send a message to Stephen McNeil that we are worth it!

We go to work every day in service to Nova Scotians. We are at a loss as to why Stephen McNeil does not see the value in our work. Many of our members work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Why is he okay with a two year wage freeze?

Stephen McNeil’s Liberals have decided to proclaim Bill 148. While we are not surprised, we are disappointed that our government thinks they have the right to reach into our Collective Agreements and remove fairly bargained benefits. And to add insult to injury they are only referring the wage restraint portion of Bill 148 to the Court of Appeal regarding its constitutionality, not the entire Bill.

CUPE is working with other unions in NS to determine a response to the review of portions of Bill 148 at the court of appeal.

CUPE NS also wants our members to know that CUPE is reviewing all of our options and will continue to make decisions that are in the best interest of our members.

Rally against Bill 148 September 21 12:00pm-3:00pm

When Premier McNeil opens the Legislature on September 21, CUPE NS will be there as part of a rally of organized labour from across Nova Scotia to send a clear message to the McNeil government. CUPE National President Mark Hancock will be attending.

Please spread the word far and wide and let’s send a message to Stephen McNeil that we are worth it!

In solidarity,

Nan McFadgen
CUPE NS President

 

Trampling on Freedom of Association: The arrogance of Stephen McNeil

The McNeil Government is failing Nova Scotians by not asking the courts to test all of Bill 148 against the constitution, says CUPE Nova Scotia President Nan McFadgen.

On August 22, the McNeil Government referred parts of Bill 148, the Public Services Sustainability Act, to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to determine the constitutionality of the legislation. However, the government only asked the court to review sections seven through 19. They excluded asking for a review of section 20 and 21 that include freezing the long-service award and strips it from future employees.

“How can the Premier expect anyone to have confidence is this piece of legislation if he is unwilling ask the courts for a constitutional review of all of it?” asks McFadgen. “He is clearly afraid of testing legislation that causes harm to tens of thousands of workers and their families.”

“The Premier should not cherry-pick which laws are constitutional and which are not. That’s not his job,” continues McFadgen. “It’s manipulative and he is trampling on our members’ Freedom of Association protected by the Charter.”

Canadian unions, including the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), have won court challenges similar to the current situation brought on by the McNeil Government. In 2016, CUPE members successfully fought back Bill 115 in Ontario. The following year, the education workers received $56.7 million financial compensation from the provincial government.

Union members in British Columbia, including Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU/CUPE) health care works, challenged legislation and won a settlement from the government in 2008. The Supreme Court of Canada awarded $85-million for health-care workers related to Bill 29.

At the end of a fourteen-year long battle, the BC Teachers’ Federation won a case decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in which the province was forced to reinstate clauses back into the collective agreement, hire back hundreds of teachers, and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on education to right the wrong.

“The McNeil Government’s attack on wages and retirement income will increase stress, workload and frustration among workers who provide services like health care, education and seniors’ care,” says McFadgen.

“What CUPE members, and all Nova Scotians, want from their government is security and well-being for their families, good jobs so that young people will stay in the province, quality care in hospitals and schools where children can thrive.”

Premier McNeil is too focused on his own agenda to solve the problems that matter to Nova Scotians.

“The Premier is picking fights with unions and workers, when he should be focusing on making life better for all working people and their families,” says McFadgen. “He’s cutting, privatizing and neglecting the services we count on, when he should be investing in and strengthening services.”

“We call on the Liberals to send the entire bill for review before the court and to respect the rights of all Nova Scotian workers under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

McNeil Government blatantly ignoring lessons of other provinces, moves ahead with attack on working people

The McNeil Government is blindly moving ahead with unconstitutional, anti- worker legislation, without learning any lessons from other provinces in Canada, says the President of CUPE Nova Scotia Nan McFadgen. Today, the McNeil Government proclaimed Bill 148, the Public Services Sustainability Act, capping wage increases and freezing the long-service award as of April 2015. This will affect almost 12,000 CUPE members.

Although this move by the province does not officially end bargaining or arbitration, it destroys the rights of union members to fairly negotiate their collective agreements, a constitutional right of all workers protected by the Canadian Charter of Freedoms.

This is the same Liberal Government that said, in an open letter to union members in 2013, they would like to “clarify misinformation being circulated,” declaring that they “believe in the collective bargaining process, the right to strike, and protecting workers’ rights, both unionized and non-unionized.” The letter was signed by Stephen McNeil.

“Reducing wages, taking away retirement income and attacking workers creates an environment that will not attract new workers and their families to live in this province,” says McFadgen. “The premier is leading us down a dark path.”

“I want to reiterate what our brothers and sisters from NSGEU have said. This government does not care about hard working people,” says McFadgen. “Enough is enough.”

The premier says he plans to ask the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal about the constitutionality of the Bill; however, unions have successfully fought and won court challenges against similar legislation in provinces across the country. Anti-worker legislation in many provinces has been struck down by the courts, and governments have fallen when they crossed the line on workers’ rights, often at the expense of taxpayers and the people who depend on public services.

From Ontario, where education workers fought back and won when the Ontario Superior Court decided in favour of education unions, ruling Bill 115 unconstitutional; to British Columbia, where the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of the teachers, supporting the right to collective bargaining – union members have fought and won attempts to take away their constitutionally protected rights.

“CUPE Nova Scotia members have the full support of the national union and all our members across the country,” says CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “We are 650,000 public service workers. We will back each other up. We will keep fighting until all workers have a decent wage and retirement security.”

“In the coming days, we’ll be working with our members and labour in Nova Scotia to determine the next steps in response to the McNeil Government’s failure to recognize the value of the work done by 75,000 public sector workers,” concludes McFadgen.

Member Update – August 9, 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

As you may have heard, NSGEU met with the province this week in conciliation, in hopes of negotiating their collective agreement. That attempt appears to have failed. NSGEU will now file a request to move negotiations to interest arbitration.

We think this a clear indication that the McNeil Government is not interested in bargaining and will continue to force their agenda on unionized workers in the public sector (Bill 148) –  all of this despite having a projected surplus of $150 million.

We will continue to watch NSGEU’s civil service negotiations and support our locals as they continue to bargain. Your bargaining teams and staff are working hard to achieve agreements through fair collective bargaining.

Please share this update with your members and contact your assigned servicing staff if you have any questions.

In solidarity,

Carl Crouse
Acting Atlantic Regional Director

Early childhood educators say new pre-primary program is unrealistic and unsustainable

CUPE representatives are asking the McNeil Government to hit pause on the pre-primary program announced July 18 by Minister Zach Churchill, and begin consultations with parents and the people who do the work – early childhood educators (ECEs), directors of non-profit centres and other stakeholders.

“We’re asking the Premier and the Minister of Education to prevent another foreseeable failure,” says Margot Nickerson, an early childhood educator and president of CUPE 4745. “Serious mistakes, with serious consequences, are being made.”

“The announcement leaves many more questions than answers,” says CUPE Child Care Coordinator Naomi Stewart. “It’s hard to believe this program will succeed, when the Department cannot offer a basic analysis to show the availability of qualified ECEs in the province needed to fill these new positions.”

In 2016 the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development released a plan Affordable, Quality Child Care: A Great Place to Grow! that included action items and a “wage floor” increase for early childhood educators that rises with the level of training as a way to help with the recruitment and retention of ECE’s in the Child Care Centres within the province.

This sector has been plagued by high staff turnover and low staffing levels due to inferior wages and working conditions,” says CUPE Nova Scotia President Nan McFadgen. “The situation will only become worse, as ECEs with a degree leave child care centres to work in the new school board provided classrooms where, presumably, they’ll receive better wages, benefits and a pension – something many early childhood educators in the province don’t currently have.”

“The Minister is rushing this program through, without adequate planning. Solving one problem, in this way, will only create more problems,” says Nickerson.

CUPE represents early childhood educators in six centres in Halifax and in Bridgewater.