Unions in Nova Scotia announced a plan to defend members’ rights through applications for party status in the ongoing Bill 148 legal review.
“What we’ve seen in the past few years has been a profound abuse of the legislature to attack unions, their members, hardworking Nova Scotians and their collective bargaining rights, ” Lana Payne, Unifor Atlantic Regional Director said at a press conference announcing the application.
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. In this process, they failed to add unions representing the affected workers as parties in the proceedings. On Friday, September 8, those unions including Unifor, CUPE, NSGEU, NSNU, SEIU, NSTU, and CUPW will file to be added as parties.
“As participants in the proceeding, unions can help protect the rights of workers being targeted by this government and speak to the adverse effect that Bill 148 will have on public sector workers,” says NS Federation of Labour President Danny Cavanagh.
Bill 148 directly impacts approximately 4,800 Unifor members, primarily earning modest wages in acute and long-term care facilities.
The effects of a legislated public-sector wage freeze are far-reaching. Wage increases and offers at the bargaining table in the private sector are also being lowered or frozen as employers are emboldened by the government’s anti-worker agenda.
Payne committed to continuing activism outside the courtroom during this application, saying, “While the lawyers argue constitutional rights, Unifor will organize and mobilize in our communities and workplaces across the province.”
Union activism in Nova Scotia has seen successes in challenging the governments’ anti-worker agenda during the recent provincial election, and the work will continue.
Background: The Effects of Bill 148
For anyone covered under a public sector collective agreement, Bill 148:
Limits pay increases according to the defined schedule over 5 years: 0%, 0%, 0.1% and 1.5% with an additional 0.5% at the last date of the term. These small increases fall behind basic cost-of-living increases, estimated at about 1% per year in Nova Scotia.
Stops retirement allowance accrual after April 1,2015. This means that someone who retires tomorrow will get the benefit accrued to April 1,2015 and paid at their salary at that date.
In the event of bargaining proceeding to arbitration, an arbitrator is prohibited from granting wage increases beyond what is stated in Bill 148.