Union vote to dictate manner in which staff is used: CAO

ARICHAT: Municipal employees in Richmond County cannot be used to facilitate meetings of a literacy coalition.

The Richmond County Literacy Coalition requested council decide whether staff can be used to host virtual meetings of the coalition’s partners, but Chief Administrative Officer Don Marchand told the regular monthly meeting that because of a pending vote of municipal employees wishing to join the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), there will be “restrictions” on their duties.

“There are some other extenuating circumstances that we’ll have to keep in mind when such requests come forward. We’re not really sure how our current situation is going to impact our ability to provide staff on such coalitions or committees,” he told council. “There will be some restrictions in the future, all depending on the outcome of the recent union vote.”

Deputy Warden Michael Diggdon argued that whether or not they join the NSGEU, this is part of their job.

“I don’t know if that would weigh into any restrictions that we would have, or that employees would have on serving, really that would be still part of their job,” he responded. “The time frame may change, it may be after-hours, so therefore we may have to pay them additional; time-and-a-half, or time in lieu. As for serving, I still believe that would fall under the scope of common practices.”

Marchand replied that such roles are “not common practice.”

“We do have committees that are created by council that require staff to be on there, and that’s what the fire services committee is, and that’s what the recreation committee is; it’s a committee that’s created for interaction with staff and the public,” he said. “Any other organization could create a coalition, we could have 10 coalitions. The next thing you know, we’ll have the Seniors Take Action Coalition looking to have a staff member go to their meetings every time they have a meeting. And there may be a youth coalition. It may lead into several organizations who want to have an individual help them out that has links to the county.”

The CAO said municipal employees have always helped Richmond County groups in other ways, such as providing office space and making photocopies, and they can continue to do so.

While she understands staff do not have the time, and there are considerations in allowing an outside group access to the municipal Zoom account, District 3 Councillor Melanie Sampson admitted she was “disappointed” that the municipality is unable to help the coalition, and she hopes they can assist in other ways in the future.

“I’m hopeful that the coalition will go forward. I am hopeful that they will invite councillors to attend and staff to attend, if they are able, to just sit, listen and learn,” she said.

Warden Amanda Mombourquette suggested this is a good example why the changes should be considered for the municipality’s grant policy.

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

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

Now that everyone has voted, the NSGEU said it will now be scrutinized by the municipality, and if there is no objection, the vote can be counted in the next week, but if there is an objection, a hearing will be held, and if so, the union said it could take up to three months to find out the results of the vote.