By DANNY CAVANAGH
The state of labour relations in Nova Scotia has sunk to an all-time low.
I represent 70,000 unionized workers in Nova Scotia, and this is not helping on the jobs front.
The most recent Statistics Canada report shows 12,000 part-time jobs created and a significant number of full-time jobs lost in 2016. Young people bear the brunt of those job losses, which is not helping Nova Scotia’s economic situation.
There is a direct correlation between the move to part-time work and the work stoppage at the Chronicle Herald.
Why wouldn’t the minister of labour agree to put in place an industrial inquiry commission to at least show the people of the province the government is doing something to end the strike and get a resolution to the dispute?
One can simply conclude the provincial Liberals support low-wage, part-time jobs and support the position of the Herald owners — that its workers, members of the Halifax Typographical Union (HTU), deserve much less.
Today, the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour is calling on the minister to put in place an industrial inquiry commission to get the facts in this dispute.
Sadly, in January 2016, the Herald owners rejected the union's offer and imposed their own set of working conditions, which included huge wage rollbacks, layoffs, contracting out and cuts to severance pay.
The Herald's owners have repeatedly said that the company faces financial problems and needs its unionized workers to accept less, including these cuts to wages and staff.
So, let’s get to the bottom of that with an industrial inquiry commission.
It is also important that the public understand that if the union members at the Herald agreed to the employer's demands, it would have catastrophic effects not just on them, but on all workers in the province.
We have copies of the document obtained by the CBC dated Dec. 30, 2015, which shows exactly what was on the line one year ago.
No worker, unionized or not, should have to accept the kinds of cuts proposed to the Herald workers, which include:
- Hourly wage reduction by more than 10 per cent
- The layoff of up to 50 per cent of the 55 HTU members and the contracting out of bargaining unit work
- Drastic reduction of severance pay for employees
- Sweeping changes to the pension plan
We believe this is not about saving money. It is clear the Herald owners and management are trying to wipe out the union.
Organizations, including government and businesses, that continue to advertise in the paper are simply prolonging the duration of the dispute.
As recently as June 1 of last year, the Herald's owners demanded even more from workers than previously sought.
Not only has the government not been willing to end the dispute at the Herald, it has been moving to bring in regressive legislation for thousands of public-sector workers.
Let me be clear and say on behalf of all workers in the province: Regressive legislation and attacks on free and fair collective bargaining will be met with the full force of the labour movement, up to and including the courts.
To underscore the soundness of our position, we need to look no further than the Supreme Court of Canada decisions on workers’ rights in the country with respect to belonging to a union and engaging in free and fair collective bargaining.
Premier Stephen McNeil: Enough is enough.
Danny Cavanagh is president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour