© Jeff Harper - Metro Halifax
Union members and their supporters march up Spring Garden Road as part of Labour Day in Halifax.
Hundreds of people raised their voices and union flags in downtown Halifax on Monday to celebrate Labour Day, and call out the Liberal government on essential services legislation which some said hurts their power to negotiate during a strike.
Matt Banfield from Local 508 of the Amalgamated Transit Union said he came to support all unions and recognize what they’ve accomplished in terms of benefits and holidays over the years.
“If you don’t keep up tradition, you don’t keep things alive … they just fall by the wayside,” Banfield said as his seven-year-old daughters, Alexis and Heidi, climbed on his shoulders and arms.
“They’re going to benefit from my financial independence and the solidness that comes with being in union,” he said with a smile.
Members from nearly a dozen unions sang and listened to speeches At Victoria Park before walking up to the Halifax Common, including nurse Trish
MacDonald of Local 97 in the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union who spoke about the two-day suspensions many received after the April “wildcat” strike.
“A good majority of these nurses … have not had their suspension days because of the continued staffing issues,” MacDonald said as the crowd laughed.
MacDonald said Bill 37, the Essential Health and Community Services Act, favours the employer during bargaining because most workers would be considered essential so there would be “no reason” for the bosses to resolve issues quickly.
Although MacDonald said at the time of the strike Capital Health stated they could not create higher staffing numbers, 130 new grads were hired soon after.
The government asked the four health care unions to come up with an essential services plan, MacDonald said, which the workers are hoping to see the
Liberal government accept by the end of September since she said it’s “the best for all” under the new bill.
Lisa Mason, a homecare worker and president of the South Shore District Labour Council, said Bill 30 declared home-support workers essential although their duties include laundry services, respite work, meal preparation and tasks “not ordinarily linked to death or serious harm.”
“We deserve better at bargaining table and beyond,” Mason said.
Canada Post cuts present ‘unbelievable damages’
Canada Post letter carrier Melanie Mackenzie spoke during the Labour Day rally about the importance of fighting for door-to-door mail service in Halifax or face “unbelievable damages.”
Mackenzie, 31, said she loves her job but with federal cuts coming within the next year or so she doesn’t know whether she’ll be on the unemployment line or working in a coffee shop.
“Mail delivery is so important to people in our community, and I can’t stress enough that the damages this will do to the people around you are heartbreaking,” Mackenzie told the crowd.
Mackenzie said this is especially an issue for those with physical disabilities, or single moms who can’t leave their kids alone.
“This has just far-reaching, unbelievable damages,” Mackenzie said.