featured Inclusion Labour

News brief: Efforts to silence Bryony House shelter workers may lead to strike or lockout

In November 2019 Bryony House workers demanded that replacement of the shelter damaged by hurricane Dorian be treated with more urgency. Photo Robert Devet 

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Collective bargaining between workers employed by Bryony House and management may fail because the 24-bed shelter wants workers to surrender their three seats on the board of directors. 

Workers have held these seats since the early nineties, and their right to do so is included in the collective agreement. 

The workers, members of PSAC DCL Local 80022, are in a legal lockout or strike position on February 23.

Surrendering these Board of Directors seats is something workers adamantly oppose, says Colleen Coffey, PSAC’s Regional Executive Vice President for the Atlantic Region. 

“The workers are extremely upset actually. They can’t understand why a feminist organization like Bryony House would not support them having a voice at the Board of Directors’ level. With these sisters it isn’t about the money,” says Coffey. 

That said, a strike is not something the workers want, Coffey says. 

“These workers are completely dedicated to the women and children who come into the shelter. The absolute last thing they want to do is go on strike. And yet today our job is to plan for a strike or a lock out. But I’m telling you, they do not want to go on strike. What they want is not to lose their voice” says Coffey.

A statement by Bryony House executive director Maria MacIntosh sent to the Chronicle Herald is cryptic in explaining the situation, calling its stance a “governance-related decision,” and explaining “that it was made following a comprehensive governance review.”

“Our number 1 priority, especially in such a difficult and challenging year, is ensuring that we continue to provide the best possible care to our clients,” MacIntosh told the Chronicle Herald. “Our goal at the table is to ensure that Bryony House has the resources to continue to support women, others at risk and families impacted by intimate partner violence and abuse.”

Coffey tells the Nova Scotia Advocate that over time management has provided different justifications, all of which PSAC believes to be factually incorrect. First it was that the organization would lose its charitable status, and now the argument is that it will stop accreditation by Imagine Canada, a large standards-setting organization for charities, says Coffey. 

“We found five other organizations in Canada that will accredit women’s shelters, and help them with their funding. None of them require that staff not be on the board. Our research officer called them and he was told that they couldn’t understand why staff should not be on the board, because their voice is so important,” Coffey says.  

“To further clarify our position, it should be noted that, the employer has developed and proposed alternatives to the role of a director on the society board to ensure that staff voices are heard, while addressing the serious governance issues that we are continually faced with,” MacIntosh wrote to the Chronicle Herald.

“I just don’t understand,” says Coffey. “That’s a feminist organization, but they’re telling these women they don’t want to hear them. Now what they’re saying is, you can give us a report. Well, listen, you can present a report, but you’re not there to know how it’s presented, and you can’t speak about your report, and you don’t know the outcome. That’s why the sisters are steadfast. They want to keep their seats.”

See also: News brief: Out of the Cold workers join a union

Check out our new community calendar!

With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.

Subscribe to the Nova Scotia Advocate weekly digest and never miss an article again. It’s free!


One Comment

  1. I don’t understand why the managements wants the workers to give up their seats. It doesn’t make much sense to me. It would make more sense to keep them, given that they’re on the front lines, and can speak directly about what they see, and need, there. Would it not? Sometimes messages can get lost in traversing levels of management, and so on, even with the best, right good will. Unless I am missing something…?
    Also, “…That’s why the sisters are steadfast. They want to keep their seats…” Are these front line workers nuns, maybe affiliated with the Sisters of Charity, or another Order?

Comments are closed.