Letter: Childhood educators in peril

The following letter was sent to Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development Zach Churchill by Michelle Lohnes on behalf of early childhood educators, members of CUPE 4745. The later was also published in the Chronicle Herald on November 11, 2017. 

Over the last few days, we have noticed that the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has provided surveys to be completed by child-care centre directors, board members and parents, to gather information about the impact of pre-primary programs that began in September.

The implementation of the pre-primary program has had a huge, negative impact on early childhood educators working in child-care centres across the province. Many of us are concerned about our future employment due to underfunding and the decline of enrolment in child-care centres. Our sector was already experiencing a recruitment and retention problem and these new programs have made a difficult situation even more challenging.

The ECEs of CUPE Local 4745 are deeply concerned that ECEs have not been included in this consultation process. ECEs hold a unique and specialized body of knowledge and education. We would like the opportunity to contribute our perspective on how the pre-primary program affects early childhood education in Nova Scotia.

Michelle Lohnes, vice-president, CUPE Local 4745

Submission to the Pension Funding Framework Review and other issues affecting pension plans

The following submission to the province, entitled “Pension Funding Framework Review and other issues affecting pension plans”, was made by CUPE NS President Nan McFadgen and the CUPE NS Pension Committee on November 10, 2017.

CUPE Nova Scotia is disappointed that the Pension Funding Framework Review discussion paper fails to address the top concerns of the members and beneficiaries of DB pension plans; ensuring the pension promise is delivered and benefits are protected.

The discussion paper appears driven by employer concerns to reduce their pension commitments as all of the “options” proposed shift the pension plan risk away from employers and on to pension plan members and retirees. This is not a balanced or fair approach to crafting Nova Scotia’s public policy for DB pension plans.

CUPE is strongly opposed to the proposal to allow the retroactive conversion of DB pension plans to TB pension plans. This would destroy the long-held rights and obligations under Nova Scotia’s Pension Benefits Act, legislation designed to protect the pension promise made to workers and retirees.

CUPE supports the position of the NS Federation of Labour that employers simply cannot be granted the ability to walk away from the pension promises they have already made to workers and retirees; a deal is a deal.

Download a copy of the full submission: Pension Funding Framework Review and other issues affecting pension plans.

ECEs will continue to deliver quality play-based learning

Chris Melanson, CUPE 5047 president

CUPE School Board Sector replies to NSTU statement

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing early learning educators (ECE) in Nova Scotia, disagrees with the recent statement made by the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union (NSTU) that teachers should be working in pre-primary classrooms.

“CUPE has supported NSTU in the past and will continue to do so,” says Grant Dart, CUPE school board sector coordinator. “However, we strongly disagree with their position paper.”

From CUPE’s perspective, the pre-primary program is best served by having only ECEs in those classrooms because:

  • ECEs are trained exclusively in play-based learning (teachers are not).
  • Early childhood educators are trained, skilled professionals. ECEs understand the value of play-based learning better than anyone.
  • In Nova Scotia, ECEs have successfully delivered the program through the Halifax Regional School Board for approximately 13 years.
  • ECEs are now delivering play-based learning through all Nova Scotia school boards, without issue or complaint.

“It’s disheartening to think that the NSTU suddenly believes this established and successful program is not delivered by qualified professionals,” says CUPE 5047 President Chris Melanson, representing Halifax Regional School Board support staff. “No other professional group has the experience and training our ECEs have.”

Rally to Protest Long-Term Care Cuts – November 17 in Inverness

Please join us on Friday, November 17, as long-term care workers and members of CUPE Local 1485, are joined by friends and family to protest the McNeil government’s budget cuts to long-term care at Inverary Manor and other facilities across Nova Scotia.

WHEN: Friday, November 17, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

WHERE: Starting at Legion in Inverness (15857 Central Avenue) and marching to Inverary Manor

WHO: Speakers will include Nan McFadgen, CUPE Nova Scotia president; Louise Riley, CUPE Long-Term Care Committee chairperson; Lorie Aylward, CUPE 1485 president; and long-term care workers affected by the budget cuts.

The McNeil Liberal government has cut millions of dollars to long-term care. This has resulted in layoffs and budget cuts at nursing homes across Nova Scotia. CUPE long-term care workers are speaking up to defend quality of care and to demand that the McNeil government reverse the cuts.

Please share this information with your co-workers, friends and family. Our seniors deserve better!

Impasse declared in negotiations between province and highway workers

Steve Joy, CUPE 1867 president

Conciliation talks between CUPE Local 1867, representing highway workers, and the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal broke off today after an impasse was declared by the conciliation officer appointed by the Department of Labour. The two groups have been in negotiations, including conciliation, since November 2014.

“As per the Nova Scotia Highway Workers’ Collective Bargaining Act, the next step in the process is for an arbitration board to be appointed by the Minister at the request of one or both the parties, which will take place in the coming months,” says CUPE Local 1867 President Steve Joy. “CUPE will now explore its options regarding the right to a Charter challenge of the Liberal government’s Bill 148.”

“Negotiations became completely overshadowed by the passing of Bill 148, the Public Services Sustainability Act, which once it was proclaimed took away the ability of the union to bargain significant portions of the collective agreement, including wages, term of agreement, and a major concession with the elimination of the long-service award. It also precluded any arbitrator appointed by the minister to rule on those matters,” says Peter Baxter, CUPE national representative.

CUPE 1867, Nova Scotia Highway Workers’ Union, represents 1,400 men and women committed to ensuring safe travel in all parts of the province for the motoring public.

CUPE members at Valley View Villa concerned with lack of oversight by provincial government

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing workers at Valley View Villa in Stellarton, is concerned that the Nova Scotia Department of Health was unaware of the problems that existed at the facility. The union is calling on the Minister of Health to explain what action the provincial government will take to protect other workplaces from this type of upheaval and risk to patient care.

Last month, the current administration at Valley View Villa contacted CUPE representatives, asking to discuss financial issues at the long term care home. The union was informed that the previous administration had staffed to a level that is not completely funded by the provincial government and this has created a‎ deficit that continued to grow over time.

The employer announced that restructuring was necessary to get down to appropriate staffing levels that fall within the funding mandate. CUPE representatives have since met with the employer to ensure that downsizing and layoffs were only implemented when there was no alternative through mitigation.

Peter Baxter, CUPE national representative, says that talks are taking place between the administration and the union.  “We are doing everything we can to make sure members are represented under the collective agreement and proper layoff procedures are followed if necessary.”

“We are working together to ensure that frontline workers, the services they provide, and the people they care for are not negatively affected during the transition,” says Baxter. “We hope that the Province will work to ensure better oversight of budgets for public health care facilities, so workers and residents are not faced with this type of staff layoff again.”

CUPE Local 2330 represents approximately 140 members who work as continuing care assistants and personal care workers, as well as staff in dietary, activities and recreation, environmental services, and maintenance.

Member update on health care bargaining – October 13, 2017

Turning my back on NS Liberals CUPE 8920

After 22 days of negotiations, multiple pieces of Liberal legislation attacking workers’ rights, and employers who are attempting to take away key benefits from health care workers, talks have finally broken down between the Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions, the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) and IWK Hospital.

Without any pressure to do so, the employers (NSHA and IWK) have requested the assistance of a conciliator from the Department of Labour to assist the parties. Employer negotiators have shown no interest in bargaining in good faith and still refuse to table their proposed changes to sick leave benefits for health care workers. As a result, there is nothing more we can accomplish at the table without the aid of a conciliator.

It is expected conciliation will begin sometime in the next two months and is likely to last for many weeks due to the complexity of the task.

When a union and an employer reach an impasse in bargaining, one or both parties can apply to the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education to have a conciliator assist in resolving the stalemate. Although a conciliator cannot compel a union and an employer to reach an agreement, they do work with both sides to try to craft a negotiated settlement and to avoid labour disruption

In the meantime, Health Care Council negotiators continue to attempt to conclude an essential services agreement, so that we may be able to begin job action. The employers’ essential services negotiators walked away from the table in the summer and have so far refused to come to the table to continue discussions. Our negotiators continue to finalize their essential services proposal in the hopes of re-starting discussions in the coming weeks.

Liberal Government legislation requires that the Health Care Council negotiate a single collective agreement to replace the multiple agreements that were in place in each of the former District Health Authorities. The legislation, requiring a detailed and complicated essential services plan before the Health Care Council could engage in job action, has had a severe impact on negotiations.

Without a concluded essential services plan, there is no threat of job action and therefore no pressure to cause the employers to compromise to reach agreement on important benefits that will make up your new collective agreement.

On August 22, the work of the Health Care Council became even more complicated when the Liberal Government enacted Bill 148, freezing your wages for two years, providing minimal increases after that, and freezing the retirement allowance retroactive to April 1, 2015.

This legislation was proclaimed by the McNeil Liberal Government without warning and strips approximately 70,000 people of benefits they previously had and relied on. We are currently challenging this legislation in the courts.

This round of bargaining has been a long and frustrating process for health care members. The McNeil Liberals have used their majority government unlike any other provincial government in Canada to invoke multiple pieces of anti-union legislation.

Despite these barriers, your Bargaining Committee continues to fight hard during these negotiations to protect key benefits that you have negotiated over the past four decades. For example, health and dental benefits plans, which employer negotiators want complete control of.

If the Health Care Council were give up this control, the employers could make unilateral changes to your benefits without the agreement of the unions.

The Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions is the lead table in this round of health care negotiations and has been attempting to negotiate a collective agreement on your behalf since October 2016. The Council’s bargaining committee is made up of six members from NSGEU, three from CUPE, and one from Unifor. The NSNU is also part of the Council.

If you have questions or concerns about the bargaining process, please contact a member of your CUPE 8920 bargaining committee:


Convention 2017 – Moving Forward Together

Delegates hold up voting cards at the CUPE National Convention

Dear Sisters, Brothers, and Friends:

We’d like to thank the 2,200 delegates who took the time out of their lives to attend our National Convention in Toronto last week. We know it’s not easy, and we appreciate your commitment to our union, and the honesty and civility with which you engaged in debates around our union’s priorities, policies and structure.

We accomplished a lot together, and we wanted to share some of the key decisions that were made.

Strike Pay

Delegates approved a resolution to begin pay for eligible members of striking locals on the first day of a strike, instead of the fifth, as is currently the case. This move will strengthen the position of locals who encounter obstinate and unreasonable demands from employers at the bargaining table. This change to strike pay is effective immediately.

Coupled with the union’s renewed bargaining policy, which rejects all attempts by employers to force concessions and two-tier proposals on workers, we now have a full set of tools to take on bargaining in a climate of aggressive austerity.

Strategic Directions

Delegates also adopted CUPE’s Strategic Directions, which establishes the union’s priorities for the next two years. The plan sets out how we will make gains in our workplaces and communities, fight racism and discrimination in all its forms, defend public services, and advocate for a better country and world.

Task Force on Governance

Delegates approved a resolution to create a Task Force on Governance which will review the structure of our union as laid out in the constitution.  Our governance structure has not changed significantly since our inception as a union in 1963, despite the substantial growth and changes in our membership in the intervening 54 years, and this assessment is long overdue.

The task force will look at the current and historic composition of our leadership, the role and responsibility of the positions that make up the National Executive Board, and the structure of our chartered organizations as well as that of other labour organizations.  The task force will make recommendations to the National Executive Board by March 2019, and the NEB will submit any constitutional amendments necessary to the 2019 National Convention.

Once again, we’d like to thank each and every delegate for their work.

In solidarity,

National President
National Secretary-Treasurer

Nova Scotia Liberal Government stomping on workers’ rights

Unions fight-back legislation in Nova Scotia

Hundreds of union members from across the province descended on opening day of the Nova Scotia Legislature on September 21, 2017. The workers, from several public sector unions, drowned out the Throne Speech being given inside at the same time. They sent a message to the McNeil Liberal Government that we will defend collective bargaining rights. “The unions will be around a lot longer than this Liberal Government!”

  • See photos of the rally on Flickr.

Organized by the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, CUPE was joined by members of Unifor, the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), the Nova Scotia Nurses Union (NSTU), the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union (NSTU), the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), IUOE Local 727 (paramedics), and the Canadian Federation of Students.

Three national union leaders joined provincial leaders to speak at the event. CUPE National President Mark Hancock led the packed agenda that also included Larry Brown, NUPGE president; and Jerry Dias, Unifor president. Other speakers included Alex Furlong, Canadian Labour Congress; Gary Burrill, leader of the NS New Democrats; and CUPE NS President Nan McFadgen.

“We’re here to send a message,” said Hancock. “We will take you on at the bargaining table. We will take you on in the courts. And by god, we’ll take you on in the streets.”

Highlights of the rally included “Stomping Steve” cut-outs that hovered over the crowd of workers and the sea of CUPE pink t-shirts and banners. The Dixie Dogs (a local, unionized six-piece band) provided music for the event, led by NS Federation of Labour President Danny Cavanagh. The rally was briefly suspended so that a military procession, which traditionally opens the Legislature before all Throne speeches, could respectfully be given thoroughfare to march through the streets of the rally.

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

On August 22, 2017, the Liberal 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. On September 8, 2017, the unions filed a request to be added as parties at the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

The McNeil Liberal Government has introduced or proclaimed seven pieces of legislation in its ongoing attack on unions.

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.

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 one per cent, 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.

There is a better way

There are steps the Nova Scotia 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.

“Stephen McNeil would have you believe there are no alternatives. But he’s wrong,” stated McFadgen. “We believe change is possible.”

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!