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Restorative justice caseworkers on strike for wage fairness

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Day two of the restorative justice caseworkers’ strike, and it must have been more than 32 degrees on Barrington Street in downtown Halifax.

Armed with opened umbrellas, sunscreen, tri-colour popsicles and new t-shirts, members of CUPE Local 4764 walked the picket line.  They were not alone, as today supporters from another union, PSAC, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, joined the picket on their lunch hour.

Photo Judy Haiven

HRM’s restorative justice caseworkers are demanding equal pay for equal work.  A job evaluation found that the work they do scores at 90% of what provincial probation officers do.  Yet probation officers earn nearly twice as much. This helps to explain why one caseworker recently left, and others have to hold down more than one job to make ends meet.

“We earn $37,690 a year,” says Shila LeBlanc, a striking restorative justice caseworker and the media liaison person for CUPE Local 4764.  “We earn $37,690 whether we have one day or 12 years on the job! We get no salary steps, and no cost of living increases.” The caseworkers have not had a raise since 2016 – which is like taking a wage cut of $1300-– accounting for inflation.  

“Our workload has increased by nearly 150 percent, with no adjustment in pay,” explains LeBlanc.  Nova Scotia’s restorative justice program once created for youth aged 12-17, changed in 2016 to include adults.  That is why the caseload is so high.

Nova Scotia’s probation officers are part of the province’s civil service, while restorative justice workers are employed by an independent agency, Community Justice Society (CJS), which is totally funded by the Department of Justice.  CJS employs six people in HRM, five of whom are women. That is another factor that explains why their wages are lower than those of probation officers. LeBlanc notes that 65% of probation officers are men, while 5 out of 6 of the restorative justice workers in Halifax are women.

HRM’s restorative justice workers are unionized, unlike the other 50 caseworkers across the province who are not.   Halifax caseworkers have been without a contract since 2016. The Department of Justice has offered no increase in funding to date.

Judy Haiven is founding member of Equity Watch.  See their Facebook page or write equitywatchns@gmail.com.  She retired from teaching Industrial Relations at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University. 

Regular picketing hours this week will be 8-2pm at 1256 Barrington Street. On Thursday, August 2nd the restorative justice workers will be picketing at the provincial court house, 5250 Spring Garden Road. They would love to see you, even for a short time! 


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