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Cafeteria workers at Halifax and Dartmouth Community College campuses join union

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Food service workers at Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) campuses in Dartmouth and Halifax voted overwhelmingly to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2.

Photo contributed.

This afternoon’s formal count, conducted by the Nova Scotia Labour Board, shows that employees of Chartwells voted in favour of joining the union by a 6 to 1 vote in Halifax, and a 13 to 3 vote at the Dartmouth Ivany Campus.

We wrote about the union drive in October, shortly after the vote took place. At that time workers we talked with complained about low pay and often working understaffed. Safety was also a huge concern.

Even in October there was little doubt about the outcome. But the margin of the vote was a bit wider than organizer Darius Mirshahi expected.  

“More people voted yes than signed cards, that’s always a good sign,” Mirshahi tells the Nova Scotia Advocate. “Quite a few workers had experienced other workplaces that were unionized, and had reasons to want that kind of protection.”

Earlier this year Chartwells took over the food service contract at the Halifax and Dartmouth Community Colleges. That contract was previously held by Aramark. To their dismay Chartwells then offered employment to long-time food service workers there at a significantly lower pay-rate, the union says.

“When people are forced to take a pay cut and lose sick days it is difficult for a company to convince its workers not to form a union. It was mostly smooth sailing,” Mirshahi says.

Mirshahi feels good about the upcoming negotiations. “We have a strong majority, it sends a good signal going into bargaining,” he says. “We will see how willing Chartwell is to consider our suggestions.”

Other cafeteria workers considering joining a union in Halifax should contact the SEIU, Mirshahi suggests.  “Nova Scotia has one of the lowest union densities in Canada. We’re here to help all people in the service sector get organized. You too can have a victory like this.”

SEIU Local 2 in Nova Scotia is located at 163 Wyse Road Dartmouth, NS B3A 1M5.
Telephone: 902 455 1095. Toll Free (N.S. only): 1-800-563-1095.

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