By Lisa Cameron on behalf of the Halifax Workers’ Action Centre
Workers at Wynn Park Villa, a long-term care home in Truro, Nova Scotia, are getting close to winning major workplace improvements.
Less than a month since the abrupt termination of Tevin Crawford, a former long-term care nurse at the facility, the workers of Wynn Park Villa successfully applied to certify their union with CUPE on March 19. Today, March 26, an in-person vote is being held.
How it started
On February 17, a Wynn Park care unit raised health, safety, and confidentiality concerns with management through an open letter. The workers felt that the nursing station was insecure, exposing residents to potential injury and threatening the security of patient files.
Sheila Peck, Wynn Park Villa’s Administrator, dismissed their concerns at a meeting a week later. Citing cost issues and a possible fire hazard, she argued no change could be made.
It was during this meeting that Crawford expressed his view, “If we were unionized, we wouldn’t be having this problem.”
Despite his excellent performance record and positive relationship with management, Crawford was fired two days later. His termination letter was vague and indicated no performance issues.
Support for Crawford
“In my opinion, this was a clear case of anti-union animus,” says Danny Cavanaugh, President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour.
“The timing is too suspicious, especially
considering Tevin’s excellent work history,” says Cavanaugh.
“I have no doubt that he was being retaliated against for making a pro-union statement, which is his right under federal and provincial legislation.”
On March 2, Rankandfile.ca broke the story about Crawford’s termination, spurring significant criticism of the care facility and attracting public support for Crawford and his co-workers.
Several former and current employees of Wynn Park Villa also came forward, sharing similar experiences and sending messages of solidarity to the workers now taking steps towards unionizing.
Wynn Park Villa’s response
Following the article’s publication, Wynn Park Villa provided staff with a letter discouraging workers from engaging in organizing efforts.
“The letter is riddled with language used by bosses who are trying to shut down a union drive,” says Asaf Rashid, lawyer and member of the Halifax Workers’ Action Centre.
“First of all, the employer defensively repeats that they care about the workers and their opinions. However, the very situation that prompted Tevin’s dismissal makes clear that this is not the case. When workers came forward with a health and safety complaint, Wynn Park dismissed it right away. Then, when Tevin expressed a pro-union view, which was his right, he was fired almost immediately.”
The letter also raises the question of union dues.
“Almost every employer uses union dues to scare workers out of joining together,” says Rashid. “The truth is, union dues are how workers pool together resources to win the changes they most want to see at work, including pay increases, better benefits, job security and more.”
“Typical of anti-union bosses”
Rashid also says the letter references Crawford without naming him.
“It accuses Tevin of misunderstanding the nature of his termination, alluding to underlying performance issues despite the fact that none were ever raised with him. This indicates that the truth lies somewhere else, and they would rather not speak about it,” says Rashid.
“Wynn Park is trying really hard to make it sound like these workers are going to lose out if they unionize, which is typical of anti-union bosses,” says Rashid.
“In fact, the opposite is true. Unionized workers enjoy a democratic process through which they can negotiate the terms of their employment as legal equals with their boss. This ensures that every worker voice is heard.”
Over the past two decades, long-term care workers in Nova Scotia have won incredible gains through unionizing, including substantial wage increases, pensions, sick leave, better benefits, maternity leave top-ups, job security, long-term disability plans, and more.
Support Wynn Park Villa workers
No doubt, the collective strength of the workers at Wynn Park Villa has scared management.
Workers with questions about their right to form a union are encouraged to reach out to the Halifax Workers’ Action Centre.