First tentative agreement reached through controversial contract legislation

Mental health facility staff enlisted labour relations board during negotiations

Staff at a mental health support centre for youth in Halifax have reached their first tentative agreement through the province’s contentious first contract legislation.

On Aug. 21, about 15 workers at the Laing House, including peer support workers, community support officers, youth speaker and community development co-ordinators, administrative assistants and communications staff, were recommended they approve the agreement by their union. The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) and the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) said the tentative deal was reached through first contract legislation.

The hotly-contested legislation passed in Nova Scotia in December of 2011, effectively amending the Trade Union Act. Under first contract legislation, the province’s labour board or a third-party have the power to impose first contracts. That way, contracts can be negotiated without the threat of a strike or lockout. While companies resisted the legislation, saying outside parties shouldn’t dictate internal working conditions, the union applauded the move.

“The possibility of an imposed agreement serves to encourage both the union and the employer to compromise and find solutions,” NUPGE said. “It’s clear that first contract arbitration can generate freely bargained settlements that are both beneficial to employees and acceptable to employers.”

Details of the tentative agreement with Laing House have yet to be released.

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