Richmond municipal employees vote whether to join NSGEU

ARICHAT: Municipal staff held a vote here late last week about joining the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU).

The Nova Scotia Labour Board oversaw the June 25 vote at the municipality’s administrative building in Arichat involving 22 employees of the Municipality of the County of Richmond who were asked whether they wanted to become members of the NSGEU.

“It seems like the group is pretty resolute; I believe they’re going to become NSGEU members,” NSGEU president Jason MacLean told The Reporter.

If the employees decide to become a bargaining unit, it would include those with the administration, finance, public works, and recreation departments, MacLean confirmed.

When asked what is driving the employees to seek NSGEU membership, MacLean noted there are a variety of issues.

“For this group alone, it’s about having the protections of the union there. They just feel they need a union there, so it’s not just any one issue,” he stated. “Everybody wants to be treated equally, and people want a set of rules that everyone must abide by, and that is the collective agreement.”

Once the union was first contacted by the municipal employees, MacLean recalled they met with the workers and discussed whether the NSGEU is the right fit for them. When the municipal workers decided that they wanted to be part of the union, plans were made for a follow up meeting, he said.

“We were approached by some employees, and then my organizing officer went and met with the employees,” he recalled. “We actually had an open, honest meeting with them.”

After meeting again and getting more municipal staff involved, MacLean said they “had more than enough” cards signed for the NSGEU.

“Our internal rule is we need over 65 per cent before we would make any application, so we have well over 65 per cent,” he said.

Following this, the NSGEU then made an application to the province’s labour board, which triggered last week’s vote.

“People would come in and sign,” he explained. “The employer could have representatives there, we had a representative there, and people come in and vote yes or no to being NSGEU members.”

Noting that the vote is considered “in the can,” meaning everyone has voted, it will now be scrutinized by the municipality,” MacLean noted.

“The employer can go and look at everybody that voted, what their positions are, and can make an argument that they should not be in the bargaining unit, if it was to be made a bargaining unit, a local,” MacLean noted.

As of press time, the municipality had made no such claim, and when asked by The Reporter about the vote, Richmond Warden Amanda Mombourquette did not provide comment.

MacLean said if there is no objection from the municipality, the vote can be counted in the next two weeks, but if there is, a hearing will be held for the municipality to make their case that certain employees should not belong to the NSGEU.

“Usually the basis for making that argument is they can hire or fire,” he said. “Or they’re handling some private information. They could argue for a few positions, they could argue for most of the positions, but right now, we don’t know even know if they are, and if they do that, we would get another hearing where they can make those arguments. We can make counter arguments against it as well. Then it would be up for the (labour) board that heard it to render a decision which could take a month or more.”

MacLean added that it could take up to three months to find out if the employees have joined the NSGEU.