New Brunswick Union welcomes new casual members

Significant progress after more than seven years since a legal challenge was filed. 

Fredericton (18 Oct. 2012) - The New Brunswick Union (NBU/NUPGE) has reached agreement with the Provincial Government (GNB) on several memoranda relating to a number of employees who were previously excluded from membership in NBU’s Part I bargaining units.

These employees, commonly referred to as “casuals” and not employed for six continuous months, were not considered “employees” under the Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA), and therefore were ineligible for union membership, until June, 2010.

In September of 2005, NBU/NUPGE, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) came together and took GNB to court, challenging the constitutionality of the PSLRA’s exclusion of casuals. The New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench agreed with the Unions and, on June 17, 2009, issued a ruling that the exclusion of casuals from union membership violated the right to freedom of association in section 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Court gave GNB one year to bring the PSLRA into compliance with the Charter. GNB responded by enacting bill 35, An Act to amend the Public Service Labour Relations Act, on June 17, 2010. The bill removed the stipulation that a casual had to work for six continuous months in order to be an “employee”. The bill also set out a process for how unions could initially negotiate with GNB on behalf of the casuals, with the resulting agreements to become part of the relevant existing collective agreements. In future rounds of collective bargaining, it will be up to the parties to negotiate the terms and conditions of employment for casuals as part of the regular bargaining process.

The initial Memoranda of Agreement for casuals includes the following benefits:

  • For casuals who work on a seasonal basis, recall for future seasonal work will be done on the basis of seniority, subject to that employee having performed the work satisfactorily in the past;
  • A guarantee of either 80% of the minimum rate payable in the collective agreement for the relevant classification, or whatever was being paid prior to September 13, 2012 (whichever is greater);
  • Vacation pay of 4% (or 6% for those with eight or more years of continuous service) per the Employment Standards Act;
  • Pay for public holidays per the Employment Standards Act;
  • The right to file a grievance (and be represented by NBU/NUPGE) on any of these matters; and
  • In addition to those benefits, as members of NBU/NUPGE casuals can get Union representation on matters arising from any rights under the Employment Standards Act or Human Rights Act. As long as the alleged violation of any of those legislated rights arises from her or his employment relationship with GNB, the Union can file a grievance regarding the alleged violation directly with the employer on behalf of a casual.

It’s been over seven years since the Casual Challenge was filed however NBU/NUPGE sees the ultimate goal as being able to build on and improve those rights in future rounds of collective bargaining, with casuals as full participants in the process.

NBU/NUPGE is working to come to agreements for our members in the public school system, the hospitals and the community colleges, similar to those memoranda reached for our casual members in Part I.

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