Harmony House: Arbitrator awards CUPE workers more than $212,000 and recommends investigation into “malfeasance”

Halifax – On July 14, Provincial Arbitrator George Filliter released a strongly worded decision in the case of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 4782 versus Harmony House.

The decision included orders for the employer to pay retroactive wages with interest, RRSP contributions, union dues, costs, and “aggravated damages” totaling more than $212,000 for the six former CUPE employees. Filliter also recommended the Provincial Department of Community Services investigate Harmony House’s owners for the appearance of “some degree of malfeasance”.

“This moves us one step closer to resolution,” CUPE National Representative Grant Dart said. “The decision confirms the lack of financial accountability by the employer, and awards the workers not just the wages owed, but also something for their years of suffering.”

“More than that,” Dart said, “the decision recognizes the lack of oversight by the provincial government in this case and the systemic issues that lead to this situation.” Harmony House was a privately owned residence for adolescent girls. During the operation and since closing, the provincial government made a number of large payments to the owners for operations and to help them transition out of the business. Some of those funds were intended to provide back-pay and other monies for the six workers.

However, the workers never received their share of the funds. Filliter’s financial awards included:

  • $72,000.24 plus interest in retroactive pay
  • $77,545.77 plus interest for unpaid RRSP contributions
  • $10,756.50 for unpaid union dues
  • $50,000 for aggravated damages
  • $1,790 in costs

“It’s now up to the courts to enforce this order,” Dart said. “These workers are still on a long road to justice.”

“Hopefully, the provincial government will consider the facts of this case when considering privatized social and community services instead of well-run, accountable public services,” CUPE Nova Scotia President Danny Cavanagh said.