No ‘snow pay’ chills morale

Many workers in Atlantic Canada won't be paid for time missed because of massive snowstorm
By Uyen Vu
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/22/2004


rievances have been piling up in the Atlantic region as many workers discovered they won’t get paid for days missed due to the massive snowstorm last month.

At Halifax-based Capital Health District, spokesman Geoff Wilson said according to the collective agreement, workers who missed their shifts must make up the time with vacation, time in lieu or extra shifts. “We are an essential service, so we don’t make any distinction between who’s essential and who’s not. Everybody is,” said Wilson.

Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, said members have filed 1,000 grievances so far. She said workers should either be paid for the missed days if they can show they made every effort to come in, or they should be allowed to claim their two-days-per-year emergency leave.

“If I was an employer, I would be very concerned that 1,000 employees are dissatisfied.”

In Prince Edward Island, Union of Public Service Employees president Sandy MacKay urged employers to show fairness and compassion in response to a once-in-a-lifetime event.

He asked whether it’s fair to penalize school janitors or school social workers for not coming into work “when the school is closed, and you don’t know if the parking lot was cleared or if there was heat in the building or if there was any water. Did the employer provide the necessities of life?”

Ernie Kostiew and his wife Lorraine tried to make the seven-kilometre drive into Charlottetown to get Lorraine to her work during the storm that buried Atlantic Canada under 95 centimetres of snow. They neither made it to work nor made it home that day. The soup kitchen where Lorraine works was closed, so the couple turned around.

“A white wall of snow hit us and we couldn’t see. The driver of the four-by-four behind us couldn’t see either because he rear-ended us. We pulled into a driveway just to wait it out, but we ended up staying with the people at that house all night. It was the most disastrous day of my life” said Lorraine.

Ernie said a more fair approach would be to compensate workers with a “call-out pay” of three or four hours for making the attempt to come in.

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