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Nova Scotia labour standards not keeping pace, report suggests

Rebecca Casey. Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Non-unionized workers in Nova Scotia not only need to deal with low wages, they are denied many of the protections other Canadian workers enjoy.   

That is the conclusion of A Rising Tide To Lift All Boats, an excellent new report by Rebecca (Becky) Casey, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Acadia University in Wolfville. 

The lengthy and detailed analysis was conducted for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The report was launched this morning at our beautiful Central Library in Halifax.

“Labour standards legislation in Nova Scotia is not keeping pace with the rise of precarious employment, leaving many already vulnerable workers even further disadvantaged,” said Casey. 

“Nova Scotia falls well short in terms of the most important and far reaching of the labour standards code’s provisions. These include standard hours of work, overtime provisions, vacation, minimum wage and public holidays.” 

What’s more, too many workers in the fishing, farming, forestry and other precarious employment sectors are exempted from even these already meagre standards, and only seem to benefit the employers, Casey added. 

Nova Scotia also has one of the longest work weeks in the country. In this province you have to work beyond 48 hours in order to qualify for overtime pay. In most other jurisdictions that number is 40 hours.

These long work weeks erode personal time, which has negative consequences on their physical and mental well being. Plus it is expensive, potentially costing an employee as much as $140, Casey said.  

Similarly, vacations should start at three weeks per year, and increase to four weeks after 10 years of employment, Casey said. 

And with a mere six paid holidays, no province is stingier on that front than Nova Scotia, said Casey, suggesting that the 9 statutory holidays referenced in the Canadian Labour Code would be more appropriate.   

And of course the minimum wage needs to be raised. The minimum wage for inexperienced workers is the lowest in Canada, and regular minimum wage is the fifth lowest. Working full time for minimum wage will get you $23,000 per year, far below the $22.57 you would need to earn a living wage and afford a two bedroom apartment in Halifax.   

The Labour Standards Code also must include measures to counter harassment and bullying at work, the report suggests.

The report offers many more recommendations, and provides lots of context. I am only skimming the surface in this short article. 

I am thinking the Nova Scotia Advocate should highlight some of the more obscure sections of the Nova Scotia Labour Code. 

The more so since, as Lary Haiven emphasized, enforcement of the Labour Code leaves lots to be desired, and many employees (and even employers) don’t know the rules.

The 2012 edition of the report was downloaded more than 100,000 times, said Haiven, one of the co-authors of that report. This  illustrates the need for this kind of analysis and information, he said.

Indeed, articles on the intricacies of holiday labour standards, written by Judy Haiven for the Nova Scotia Advocate, are equally popular, with her story on the intricacies of Remembrance Day pay getting over 60,000 reads since it was first published in 2017.

See also: Your rights at work: The boss can take your tips!

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