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.

CUPE welcomes new members at Grand View Manor, Berwick

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is pleased to welcome our newest members, the employees of Grand View Manor in Berwick, Nova Scotia. Votes were counted by the Nova Scotia Labour Board today and CUPE is happy to welcome this newly certified local.

“We are pleased to welcome the new members of CUPE Local 5183, Grand View Manor, and we will work hard to represent them,” says CUPE National Representative Grant Dart.

CUPE now represents just over 200 members at Grand View Manor, a long term care and community services facility. The new local at Grand View Manor represents members who work as licensed practical nurses, continuing care assistants and health care aides, as well as staff in dietary, payroll, scheduling, environmental services, laundry, housekeeping and maintenance. In addition to the new members at Grandview Manor, CUPE represents more than 3,200 long term care workers in communities across Nova Scotia.

“Thank you to all employees of Grand View Manor for their patience and dedication through this long process,” says Dart. “We look forward to working with this dedicated group of new CUPE members, as well as the employer, to reach a first collective agreement,” adds Dart.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada’s largest union representing more than 640,000 members across Canada. In Nova Scotia, CUPE represents approximately 19,000 members working in the public sector, including health care facilities, personal care homes, school boards, municipal services, social services, child care centres, public utilities, libraries and family emergency services.

Newsletter – June 2017

Read CUPE Nova Scotia’s Quarterly Newsletter online or download and print copies for your local.

In this issue:

  • CUPE Solidarity with Striking HTU Members
  • Borrow the CUPE NS Van
  • Committee Election Results
  • Members raise funds for the CUPE Solidarity Fund and the Mi’kmaq Legal Support Network
  • Members Elected to NS Legislature
  • Delegates Vote on Resolutions
  • Election Results – CUPE NS Division Executive
  • Preventing Heat Stress
  • Health & Safety Award

Download the June 2017 newsletter

CUPE Nova Scotia Van Policy

Purpose:

  1. To fight back against anti-labour governments by having a stronger visible presence at community and political events such as Pride parades, festivals and Labour Day events.
  2. To raise the awareness of CUPE NS and promote and educate the public on the value of unions and labour within the province.

Considerations:

  1. CUPE NS is invested in raising the profile of the Division and unions in general.
  2. Access to a van branded with our union message will help the Division and our locals promote the value of unions and labour.
  3. CUPE NS and its locals will have a greater profile at rallies and protests.

Procedures:

  1. A copy of a valid drivers’ license for the assigned driver must be present each time the van is signed out and only the assigned driver will be permitted to drive the van.
  2. If the van is being used to transport 8 or more passengers, the driver must have a Class 4 license.
  3. The gas tank will be filled when picked up and must be filled upon return of the van.
  4. Any affiliated local is encouraged to use the van in their community for outreach e.g. participation in a parade etc.
  5. The van will be booked on a first come first served bases by completing the booking form and sending it to the designated executive member.
  6. The van will be in a clean condition upon picked up and must be returned in a clean condition.
  7. The local/person using the van will be responsible for pick up and returning the van to the location it was picked up from.
  8. All decorations applied to the van for the event must be removed before returning the van. No writing on the van is permitted even with washable markers as they will leave marks that cannot be removed.
  9. The van shall not be used for any personal use e.g. moving a child to university.

Accountability:

  1. CUPE NS will ensure that the van is appropriately insured and maintained.
  2. CUPE NS and its affiliated locals will provide pictures and information supporting their outreach activity when requested.

Approved by CUPE NS Executive
January 19, 2017

Download a copy of the Form to Request the CUPE NS Van.

Please complete this form and email it with a copy of the person driving the van driver’s license to:
Dianne Frittenburg
CUPE NS Vice-president
Email: dfritt@icloud.com

Nan McFadgen re-elected president of CUPE Nova Scotia

Nan McFadgen, president of CUPE Nova Scotia, was re-elected at the union’s 54th annual convention on May 31, 2017. More than 200 voting delegates from locals across the province attended the convention held May 28 to 31, at the Best Western Glengarry Hotel in Truro.

Other election results are as follows:

  • Dave Dort, recording secretary
  • Donna Vankroonenburg, three-year trustee
  • Chris Melanson, vice-president, Halifax
  • Marcy Vacon, vice-president, Yarmouth
  • Liz Paris, equity vice-president

The convention addressed several issues of concern to CUPE members, their families and communities in the province, including the provincial election, privatization threats, Bill 148 and other regressive pieces of legislation from the McNeil government.

CUPE Nova Scotia represents more than 19,000 working women and men employed throughout the public sector. We are proud to be part of Canada’s largest and fastest- growing union. CUPE represents workers in health care, education, municipalities, libraries, child care, universities, social services, public utilities, transportation, emergency services, and airlines.

CUPE members are service-providers, white-collar workers, technicians, labourers, skilled tradespeople, and professionals. More than two-thirds of CUPE members are women. About one-third of our members work part-time.

CUPE members elected to Nova Scotia Legislature

CUPE Nova Scotia congratulates former CUPE members Sue LeBlanc, MLA for Dartmouth North, and Tammy Martin, MLA for Cape Breton Centre, on their election to the Nova Scotia Legislature in the provincial election held May 30, 2017.

“It is thrilling to see two incredible women elected to represent Nova Scotians,” says Nan McFadgen, CUPE Nova Scotia president. “Having new progressive voices in the legislature is important for the future of the labour movement in the province. We know they’ll do a wonderful job.”

“We are also thrilled to have NDP leader Gary Burrill elected in Halifax Chebucto. He will fight to protect the things that matter most to workers and their families, like hospitals, schools, and publicly-delivered services,” says McFadgen.

Four other union members ran in the elections. Cheryl Burbidge, Ronald Crowther, Glenn Walton and Jim Laverie had excellent showings in the respective districts of Kings West, Northside Westmount, Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, and Yarmouth.

“We are concerned and disappointed by the outcome [Liberal majority] of the election. However, we are grateful for those who came out to vote and recognize there is much work to be done engaging Nova Scotians in our democracy,” says McFadgen. “Forty- three per cent is not representative of Nova Scotia.”

“We hope that newly elected MLAs will show greater respect for the collective bargaining process and the rights of workers to organize and belong to unions,” adds McFadgen. “There is much work to be done by the Liberal government to repair relations with public service workers and to settle collective agreements with all public sector unions.”