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Judy Haiven: Remembrance Day, the punitive holiday

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – In Nova Scotia Remembrance Day has its own act, because it is not a “general paid holiday” under Labour Standards and it’s not a “designated closing day.” 

Then what is it – apart from the remembrance of World War I and II? It is a punitive holiday day because many Nova Scotians must forego pay. That week your pay cheque will be 20% lighter than it was for a 5-day week.  Also the Act stipulates that no bar can open before 12 noon on Remembrance Day. 

If you work in retail or in the service sector, Monday, Nov. 11 will be a day off for you. That is because the law requires shops in malls, big box stores, major grocery stores, liquor stores and other retail venues to be closed. You get the day off – but without pay! 

However if you work at a bar or a restaurant which does open, or you work in a gas station, a shop with fewer than 3 staff, or a pharmacy – you may have to work that day. If you do work, you get paid (straight time) for the day of work plus you get an extra day off with pay. That is only if you work Remembrance Day AND you worked for pay 15 of the last 30 days.

Confused? You are meant to be! 

Like Labour Standards in Nova Scotia, the Remembrance Day Act is also full of exceptions. 

Farm workers are exempt, so are those who work in bakeries, fish and meat processing plants, dairy production, logging, aquaculture and even newspaper publishing. Of course hospital workers, police and those who work in fire services are exempt too. But they have unions which often negotiate premium pay for their members who works Remembrance Day.

If you’re lucky enough to be in a union or covered by a collective agreement, most collective agreements designate November 11 as a holiday like other statutory holidays. For example, if you work as a clerk at Saint Mary’s University, since November 11 falls on a Monday, the university is closed that day. Thank your union for providing you the day off with pay. 

There is a small reprieve for everyone who does have to work on November 11—such as those who work in coffee shops like Tim Hortons. The act calls for your boss to “suspend operations for 3 minutes starting at 10:59 am on November 11”—that means you do get a 3 minute break. Still, it’s probably not long enough for you to drink a coffee.

Judy Haiven is on the steering committee of Equity Watch, an organization that fights discrimination, bullying and racism in the workplace.  Contact her at equitywatchns@gmail.com

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