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Justice for justice workers: ‘Many of us have stuck around because the work is so powerful’

Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Employees of the Community Justice Society (CJS) have been on strike since July 30, looking for something closer to equity with government probation workers, whose jobs are very similar.

However, the workers have no quarrel with their employer. They are looking at the provincial government to offer a solution.

CJS administers the Restorative Justice Program for the Department of Justice. The Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program works with youth and adults and offers an alternative avenue from the court system to repair the harm caused by their actions.  

“Anyone can make mistakes and end up in the criminal justice system. Criminal charges can follow you through life. So to have the opportunity to make amends is very important,” says Colin English, one of the CUPE 4764 members walking the picket line this morning.

“And not just an opportunity for the offender to make amends, but also for the person who has been harmed to be involved. That is often missing in the traditional justice system,” adds co-worker Becky Kerr.

“The job is extremely rewarding in that way. That is why so many of us are still in the job. It obviously isn’t the pay. Many of us have stuck around because the work is so powerful. When you see that healing happening in real time, it is really worth it in the end,” Kerr says.

The government argues that the strike is purely an issue between employer and workers, but clearly this is a cop-out when all funding for the small non-profit organization comes from that same government.  

“The government funds our employer 100 percent. We’re not mad at our employer, our employer has been very supportive throughout,” English says.

“Support altogether has been great. People stop and walk with us all the time, it’s great for morale. It’s been really hot, and sometimes it gets tough. When somebody takes time out of their day, it means a lot,” says English. “This is our first time on strike, and we never experienced this kind of union solidarity before. It’s an eye opener.”

The workers can be found in front of 1256 Barrington Street on workdays between 8 AM and 2 PM. Why not say hello when you’re in the neighborhood?


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