Top News

Nova Scotia workers fall behind: report

Rebecca Casey, a sociology professor at Acadia University, talks about her Nova Scotia labour standards report, A Rising Tide to Lift all Boats, at the Halifax Central Library on Thursday morning.
Rebecca Casey, a sociology professor at Acadia University, talks about her Nova Scotia labour standards report, A Rising Tide to Lift all Boats, at the Halifax Central Library on Thursday morning.
HALIFAX, N.S. —

Nova Scotia falls short on labour standards that cover hours of work, overtime provisions, vacation time, minimum wage and public holidays, says Rebecca Casey, the author of a recently published study.

“Labour standards legislation is not keeping pace with the rise in precarious employment, leaving many already vulnerable workers further disadvantaged,” Casey, a sociology professor at Acadia University, said at a news conference Thursday at the Halifax central library to introduce her 133-page study. The study was commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

She said the attack on workers has continued unabated since the 2012 labour standards publication was completed for the CCPA.

“This report concludes that workers in Nova Scotia are denied many of the protections that other Canadian workers enjoy,” Casey said.

She said a long and complicated list of exemptions and special employment rules are commonly found in precarious employment sectors, including farming, fishing and forestry,

“Some employees are not entitled to overtime after 48 hours of work. They have to work longer. They are not entitled to holiday pay or termination pay, just to name a few. Nova Scotia should remove this list of exemptions and special rules.”

Casey said the exemptions solely benefit employers.

“Nova Scotia has the dubious distinction of having one of the longest work weeks in the country,” Casey said. “The work week in Nova Scotia is 48 hours and most employees in Nova Scotia are not eligible for overtime pay until they’ve worked beyond the 48 hours. Other jurisdictions will start overtime pay after 40 hours of work.”

For employees earning minimum wage, Casey said the longer week before overtime rates kick in reflects a potential earnings loss of $140 a week for minimum-wage employees. She said longer work weeks erode personal times for employees, affecting their mental and physical well-being.

Casey said Nova Scotia is below average in vacation time, noting it should start at a minimum of three weeks and rise to four after 10 years on the job.

“Employees would benefit from these extended periods away from work as vacations can be a time for employees to recharge.”

Nova Scotia has the lowest number of public holidays available to employees, Casey said, recommending that the six paid holidays be increased to the nine included in the Canadian Labour Code.

Larry Haiven, a professor emeritus at Saint Mary’s University who specializes in industrial relations and one of the authors of the 2012 report, said such studies are intended to shame government into doing the right thing and making workers aware of their rights.

He said many workers do not know and their employers do not inform them that they are to be compensated for statutory holidays, whether they actually work them or not.

Casey’s report also recommends increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, from the two-tiered $11.05 for inexperienced workers and $11.55 for experienced workers, one of the lowest minimum wage rates in the country, according to the report.

“We are one of the least enforcing provinces when it comes to employment right,” Haiven said. “This is not good for employers. They think it’s good because they think this is the place where you can make profits, not by investing in new technology, worker training and research development, but simply by paying people less. It doesn’t work out well in the long run.”

The report also recommended increasing the time period for employees to submit work-place complaints to two years and strengthening enforcement by increasing fine amounts and by using fines, prosecutions and imprisonment more often.

Danny Cavanagh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, said it is imperative to come up with a campaign that will both educate workers and employers about what their rights are under labour standards and to make improvements in areas such as wage theft.

“The wage theft goes from anything from not paying people, which happened at the Smiling Goat Café to the Christmas holiday pay,” Cavanagh said. The labour leader said the federation would like to do a deeper dive into labour standards that would include working with other Atlantic regional federations to push for uniform protections to things like sick pay.

Casey said it’s not all bad news in Nova Scotia, where recent improvements have been made in the areas of removing qualifying periods required for pregnancy, parental and adoption leaves and leaves for employees and their children who experience domestic violence.

READ THE REPORT

A Rising Tide to Lift All Boats: Recommendations for Advances to Nova Scotia’s Labour Standards Code

Recent Stories