School support workers waiting too long for retroactive pay, NSGEU says

Sandra Mullen is the president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union. (Robert Guertin/CBC - image credit)
Sandra Mullen is the president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union. (Robert Guertin/CBC - image credit)

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union says it's taking too long for hundreds of school support workers it represents to receive back pay they are owed.

In November 2022, school support workers in the Annapolis Valley, South Shore, Annapolis Valley and Tri-County regional centres for education successfully negotiated new contracts with their employers. Those in the Annapolis Valley and the South Shore said they were striking to seek higher wages in line with other regions.

The new contracts included a process where the wage scales of different categories of support workers — such as early childhood educators and student support workers —  would be separately reviewed to bring pay up to that of other regions.

Sandra Mullen, the union's president, said the reviews for some employee types were completed before formal tribunals for the process began over the summer, and the final tribunal was held in October. Workers are set to receive wage increases ranging from 95 cents an hour to nearly $7 an hour, retroactive to November 2022.

Mullen said workers knew it would take time to complete the review process, but the regional centres for education should have been processing the retroactive pay as each wage-scale review was completed.

"Our payroll folks are very capable of doing this because we represent those who work in payroll. So we know ... this work can be done," she said.

The union filed grievances on Nov. 6 against three regional centres for education, but the centres have denied the grievances, according to a news release.

That means the employers will not implement the new wage rates or deliver back pay until March 2024, the release said.

The union is now moving the grievances to arbitration — where a third-party will evaluate the validity of the grievances, and whether damages will be awarded.

The South Shore and Tri-County centres issued a joint statement Thursday evening.

"The compensation alignment process began in January 2023 and wage rates were agreed upon by all parties in October 2023. When negotiations were completed and updated wages were confirmed, our payroll staff began the process of updating payroll system to implement new wages.

"This process requires several steps to ensure employees are paid correctly, and is not work that temporary staff can be engaged to complete, given the skills required with payroll system."

The statement went on to say: "This remains a priority for us and we will complete the work as soon as possible. Our current estimate is March, 2024."