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Community Justice Society workers on strike: Equal pay for work of equal value

Some comments by Judy Haiven on the importance of the pay equity principle as it applies to the striking Community Justice Society caseworkers. Haiven spoke at today’s well attended rally in front of the Department of Justice offices on Hollis Street.

Other speakers were CUPE 4764 strike captain Shila Leblanc, Federation of Labour president Danny Cavanagh, NDP labour critic Tammy Martin, Mark Culligan on behalf of Solidarity Halifax, and CUPE staff rep Govind Rao. 

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My name is Judy Haiven.  I’m a retired professor at St Mary’s University, where I taught Labour Relations.

I’m also one of the founders of a new organization in town called Equity Watch.  Our organization is dedicated to stopping discrimination and bullying in the workplace. We’ve gone after organizations such as the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission to demand that they do their jobs and HRM to demand they stop harassment in the workplace.

I’m here today to give my support to the caseworkers who have been on strike for more than three weeks.

I’d like to talk a bit about pay equity. The major demand of the Community Justice Society (CJS) workers is pay equity.   I have seldom seen a clearer or simpler case that illustrates the necessity for equal pay for work of equal value or pay equity.

In a pay comparison of Community Justice Society staff (these people on strike) to Nova Scotia probation officers which was conducted in the lead up to this strike, the assessor compared CJS staff and probation officers in terms of their qualifications, job duties, responsibilities and relevant skills.

The study found that the basic job qualification is the same for RJ caseworkers and for probation officers—a university degree in social sciences.  However with every year’s experience on the job, probation officers earn more money. Because of minor differences in the jobs, the pay equity study recommended that Restorative Justice caseworkers should earn 90% of what probation officers earn.

Restorative Justice caseworkers earn only 86% of what probation officers earn starting out.  Restorative Justice caseworkers earn $37,690 a year – there is no grid and no opportunity to earn more each year. Provincial  probation officers start at $43,776. With more years on the job, the earning gap between probation workers and Restorative Justice workers widens.  Restorative Justice Caseworkers deserve an immediate 4% pay increase to raise them to $39,398 per year which is 90% of what probation officers earn.

The average pay of probation officers is $66,000 a year, while all Restorative Justice workers still earn only just over $37,000 a year. How can the McNeil government justify a 56% pay gap for similarly qualified professional workers?  My research has found that when governments spin social services off to private non-profits, those who work in the nonprofits earn less than they would in government. It does not have to be this way.  I found that in the UK, for example, social service workers whether employed by nonprofits or by government are paid almost the same—and staff can move between these two employers without taking a cut in pay—as they do here.

We also note that Restorative Justice caseworkers have not had a raise since 2016, which with inflation has already cost them $1,300.  In other words, these striking caseworkers have already taken a pay cut of $1,300.

As trade unionists and supporters of trade unions, we have to start accounting for inflation in wage settlements.  Otherwise pay increases are meaningless. A zero % increase or a small pay raise amounts to a PAY CUT if it does not meet inflation.

Is this what we have come to?  Accounting for inflation, the median wage in Nova Scotia has decreased over the last 35 years, despite rises in productivity and prosperity.  Not only have workers with fewer skills and credentials suffered by having to take lower wages (when inflation is factored in), but we can see from this dispute that higher skilled and credentialed workers are also suffering.

Let’s support the Restorative Justice caseworkers, and let’s help win your strike.

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. The striking Community Justice Society workers would love to see you, even for a short time! 


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