Young workers at Halifax Discovery Centre focus on diversity and inclusion to secure groundbreaking first agreement

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Negotiating a first collective agreement is a challenging and often time-consuming process as a bargaining committee gets familiar with the process and works with the membership to determine priorities. For the newly-formed unit at the Halifax Discovery Centre, part of Local 4005, the group was steadfast from the beginning that diversity and inclusion be central to their proposals.

“The creativity and insight demonstrated by this group of workers was informed by their own experiences and they ended up with language that has inspired other locals, even in other unions,” said Darlene McIvor, National Representative.

One such creative item in their proposals was to have their CEO begin all public statements with an acknowledgement of being on unceded Mi’kmaq territory. This, unfortunately, did not make it into the final agreement, though an acknowledgement is printed at the beginning of their agreement. Another that was successfully adopted, is the inclusion of an annual labour-management meeting specifically for discussion around workplace diversity and inclusion.

“I’m especially happy that we outlined a specific labour-management communication process and that, should it not be followed, we have recourse through a grievance process,” said Japna Sidhu-Brar, member of the bargaining committee. 

Part-time workers will get an additional paid statutory holiday, and health and dental benefits, something many part-time workers are not provided. One day of leave with pay will also be granted as Citizenship Leave to allow a full-time employee to attend the Citizenship Court of Canada on the day they are to become a Canadian citizen.

“Many of us are students who came to Halifax from other parts of the world, and to acknowledge and respect a day as important as your citizenship ceremony is one way we can be welcoming of diversity in our workplace,” said Sidhu-Brar.

“We are incredibly proud of the hard work that has been put into bargaining this collective agreement,” said Jennifer Murray, Business Agent of Council 4000. “The resilience and determination of this committee is a true reflection of the strength and support from the entire membership.”

The workers, most of whom identify as young workers, ratified their first agreement by 92 per cent on July 15.