featured Labour

Rock bottom: Paid holidays and labour standards in Nova Scotia

If you want to unite with others to campaign for better rights at work, write Judy at workwonks@gmail.com   

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Did you work on Monday?  If you wait tables or cook at a restaurant, work in a café, work as a sales clerk or a security guard, the answer is probably yes.

Wait – wasn’t Natal Day supposed to be a holiday? Nope.  The NS government, in its wisdom, has declared only six statutory holidays –or General Holidays every year.  All six – New Year’s Day, Heritage Day, Good Friday, Canada Day, Labour Day and Christmas Day are “retail closing days”.  Natal Day isn’t one of them.

Halifax Natal Day parade, 1953. It appears labour standards around holidays haven’t changed much since the fifties.

Online, the NS government helpfully points out that though Natal Day is known as a civic holiday, it’s not really a holiday, though it is “commonly a day off.” Really?

One wonders how common it is to have the first Monday in August off with pay? Frankly, the only people who do get the day off with pay are unionized workers whose collective agreements spell out that workers get paid for the holiday.  Trade union agreements cover employees in all the universities, the civil service, schools, hospitals, the municipality, city hall, the public library, and those who work full-time at liquor stores.  If a liquor store, hospital or transit employee does work on Natal Day, chances are that they will get another day off with pay– in lieu of having worked on the holiday.  

The next  “retail closing day” – or statutory holiday – on the calendar is Labour Day.  Everyone who works is supposed to get a day off with pay.  If the bar or restaurant you work for is open Labour Day, you may ‘qualify’ for holiday pay which is paid at straight time plus time and a half for the hours you work.  Or, you get paid straight time for the hours you work and then another day off with pay. Of course this depends on you having worked 15 of the previous 30 days, plus the scheduled shift before and the shift after the holiday.  Labour Standards’ arcane rules are set out here. 

Even if you don’t work Labour Day, let’s say your employer is closed, you are still supposed to be paid a regular day’s pay for not working. It’s a paid holiday!

But don’t get too comfortable.  Thanksgiving Day is coming up October 9 and, like Natal Day, it is not a general paid holiday.  Unionized employees get the day off with pay.  If there is no union and your shop, restaurant, or service remains open, you will have to go to work like any other day.

If you want to unite with others to campaign for better rights at work, write Judy at workwonks@gmail.com   

If you can, please support the Nova Scotia Advocate so that it can continue to cover issues such as poverty, racism, exclusion, workers’ rights and the environment in Nova Scotia. A pay wall is not an option, since it would exclude many readers who don’t have any disposable income at all. We rely entirely on one-time donations and a tiny but mighty group of dedicated monthly sustainers.