Sobeys says proposed changes to the Trade Union Act would hurt businesses in Nova Scotia, Canada; changes would permit the province's labor board or an arbitrator to resolve first collective agreements if negotiations have broken down

LOS ANGELES , November 29, 2011 () – Dave Fearon, the vice-president of human resources at Sobeys Stores Ltd., says that the proposed changes to the Trade Union Act would be a “further challenge to doing business in Nova Scotia at a time when Nova Scotia cannot afford to be putting up barriers to businesses that create jobs,” the Chronicle Herald reported on Nov. 29.

While speaking before the legislature’s law amendments committee, Fearon also called the legislation “totally unnecessary” and said that it would hurt the global competitiveness of businesses in Nova Scotia.

The proposed changes to the Trade Union Act would permit Nova Scotia’s labor board or an arbitrator to resolve first collective agreements if negations between the employer and a newly-certified union have broken down.

The legislation would also, from the time of a workplace’s certification,

Sobeys, a national grocery chain with roughly 10,000 employees—approximately 10% of its national workforce—in Nova Scotia, has formed an employers’ roundtable with 19 other private employers in order to oppose the proposed legislative changes.

Fearon and McLellan, a lawyer for the employers’ roundtable group, have asked that the bill be returned to Nova Scotia’s labor-management committee for additional changes.

If the government will not send the bill back to the labor-management committee, Fearon and McLellan said that there should be a system in place to determine whether there is sufficient evidence that negotiations have broken down before arbitration takes place.

They have also said that the labor board should be given additional power to require that further negotiations take place without the strict timeline stipulated in the bill, or that the labor board should, instead of requiring a lockout or a strike to end once an application for arbitration has been submitted, allow the lockout or strike to continue.

Six other Canadian providences already have legislation that is similar to the proposed arbitration changes in Nova Scotia.
Jane MacMillan, a spokesperson for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, spoke in support of the proposed changes, and said that arbitration for first collective agreements will help newly unionized employees and their employers resolve disagreements.

The primary source of this article is the Chronicle Herald, Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Nov. 29, 2011.

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