Nova Scotia

Halifax youth centre may get first imposed contract

A Nova Scotia public sector union is in a position to trigger the first government imposed collective agreements under the province's first contract arbitration legislation.

First contract arbitration legislation passed in 2011

A Nova Scotia public sector union is in a position to trigger the first government imposed collective agreements under the province's first contract arbitration legislation.

The law, passed in late 2011, gives either side the right to apply to the Labour Board of Nova Scotia for an imposed settlement in cases where a first collective agreement is not achieved after one year.

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union organized Laing House — a Halifax drop-in centre for youth with mental health issues — in February 2012. Both sides are currently in conciliation talks.

"This does have the potential to be the first contract that would fall under the legislation," Joan Jessome, the president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, told CBC News.

"We're optimistic we can get a deal. There is a learning process for them. This is their first ever contract, while we, obviously have plenty of experience."

Laing House, a Halifax drop-in centre for youth with mental health issues, was unionized in February 2012. (CBC)

Jessome said the union is also in a position to seek an imposed settlement if bargaining fails at a Shannex assisted living facility in Halifax. The union certified that workforce last March.

The first contract arbitration legislation was passed over the objections of businesses that said it would give unions an advantage in bargaining by guaranteeing a contract — without a strike — even if bargaining fails.

"As we are actively in the bargaining process, we do not have a comment on this matter,"  Shannex spokesperson Heather Hanson said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

Maureen Fraser-McLaughlin, the executive director of the Laing House Association, said she hopes the legislation won't be needed.

"We're hoping to avoid having a third party determine what that collective agreement would look like for us. We don't really want that imparted on us," said Fraser-McLaughlin.

"As long as people are both talking, then we're still hoping to get a deal."

Fraser-McLaughlin said she's concerned about the bottom line and the possible impact on an organization that also relies on volunteers for program support.

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union said it's trying to get as much settled as it can at the bargaining table.

"The best deal is always the one you get at the table," said Jessome.

"When you are negotiating contracts and you can't reach a deal in this process, then you could be stuck with something that's in the sector and maybe what's in the sector's not good enough for us."

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