The lead table for CUPE’s coordinated bargaining in Nova Scotia’s community services sector met with government on Monday following a series of successful strike votes and were unable to reach a tentative agreement.

“It’s disappointing and insulting,” said CUPE representative Kim Cail. “The government is determined to impose a wage grid that would lower wages for new employees and hamper recruitment in a sector that’s already struggling.” Recruitment and retention are an issue across all health care related sectors, and the community service sector is no different. The government has said that they will need three times the number of staff they currently have in the sector to implement the remedy they must do stemming from the court decision in March of this year.

The union feels that introducing a lower starting wage will force potential candidates to go elsewhere. “We’re fighting for a more stable future for all community service workers,” said CUPE’s Long-Term Care and Community Services Coordinating Committee Chairperson Christa Sweeney, “not just those who are already working with us. Lower starting wages that require years to increase will not attract people to our sector. It’ll drive them away.”

The Long-Term Care and Community Services Coordinating Committee represents 49 long term care locals and 21 community service locals. At the lead table for community services bargaining, they are fighting for increased wages that recognize the importance of their work, job security, and a defined benefit pension plan, which only a handful of locals currently have.

“Our members are struggling,” said Sweeney. “Our community service members haven’t had a wage increase since 2020, and many of us don’t have any hope of retiring comfortably. We don’t want to go elsewhere to find those things. We want to stay in our homes, with our residents, but the reality is that the way things are isn’t sustainable for many members, and that needs to change.” CUPE’s community service locals have started taking strike votes to show their solidarity with the lead table and their dedication to fighting for a fair deal. More will follow in the upcoming weeks. There are currently no further bargaining dates set.