Day two of the restorative justice caseworkers’ strike, and it must have been more than 32 degrees on Barrington Street in downtown Halifax.
Armed with opened umbrellas, sunscreen, tri-colour popsicles and new t-shirts, members of CUPE Local 4764 walked the picket line. They were not alone, as today supporters from another union, PSAC, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, joined the picket on their lunch hour.
“We earn $37,690 a year,” says Shila LeBlanc, a striking restorative justice caseworker and the media liaison person for CUPE Local 4764. “We earn $37,690 whether we have one day or 12 years on the job! We get no salary steps, and no cost of living increases.” The caseworkers have not had a raise since 2016 – which is like taking a wage cut of $1300-– accounting for inflation.
“Our workload has increased by nearly 150 percent, with no adjustment in pay,” explains LeBlanc. Nova Scotia’s restorative justice program once created for youth aged 12-17, changed in 2016 to include adults. That is why the caseload is so high.
Nova Scotia’s probation officers are part of the province’s civil service, while restorative justice workers are employed by an independent agency, Community Justice Society (CJS), which is totally funded by the Department of Justice. CJS employs six people in HRM, five of whom are women. That is another factor that explains why their wages are lower than those of probation officers. LeBlanc notes that 65% of probation officers are men, while 5 out of 6 of the restorative justice workers in Halifax are women.
HRM’s restorative justice workers are unionized, unlike the other 50 caseworkers across the province who are not. Halifax caseworkers have been without a contract since 2016. The Department of Justice has offered no increase in funding to date.
This was first published by the Nova Scotia Advocate