Know Your Rights!

Employees have more rights in the workplace than they often realize. But these rights only have power when a person knows them and has the confidence to use them. Knowledge is power!

The rights we all enjoy flow from a variety of sources. We’ll start with the most basic rights enjoyed by all Canadians, and then to the very specific rights you and your co-workers have negotiated with your employer.

Charter Rights

Every Canadian has basic human rights that are defined in The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The charter guarantees that (subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society), that everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

  • Freedom of conscience and religion;
  • Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of speech;
  • Freedom of peaceful assembly;
  • Freedom of association (In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada re-affirmed that freedom of association means that every Canadian has the right to be a member of a union and the right to participate in collective bargaining).

Human Rights

Every Nova Scotian has basic human rights defined in The Human Rights Act of Nova Scotia. The purpose of this act is to:

  • Recognize the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family;
  • Recognize that the government, all public agencies and all persons in the Province have the responsibility to ensure that every individual in the Province is afforded an equal opportunity to enjoy a full and productive life and that failure to provide equality of opportunity threatens the status of all persons.

Labour Code Rights

Every worker in the province, whether they belong to a union or not, has basic employment rights, which are defined in the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code and its associated regulations.

Health and Safety Rights

Every worker in the province, whether they belong to a union or not, has basic occupational health and safety rights, which are defined in The Occupational Health and Safety Act of Nova Scotia. (For the amendment regarding working alone in late-night retail premises, please see

Collective Bargaining Rights

Every member of a union in Nova Scotia, including the NSGEU, has collective bargaining rights as defined in one of three provincial acts:

Trade Union Act: This act covers almost all unionized workers in Nova Scotia, and a majority of NSGEU members. The Trade Union Act gives the workers it covers the right to strike as a dispute-resolution mechanism in the bargaining process. (However, the act mandates that police officers do not have the right to strike, and must use arbitration to resolve contract disputes.)

Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act: This act specifically covers Civil Service employees (most of whom work directly for a government department) and does not give them the right to strike. It mandates arbitration as the dispute-resolution mechanism for the bargaining process.

Corrections Act: This act governs corrections employees and does not confer the right to strike. It mandates interest arbitration as the dispute-resolution mechanism for the bargaining process.

Essential Services Legislation

In 2014, the Liberal government led by Stephen McNeil, introduced several pieces of essential services legislation that require essential services levels be negotiated in the health care sector before negotiations begin.

Essential Home-support Services (2014) Act: This act pertains to Home Support Negotiations throughout the province.

Essential Health and Community Care Services  (2014) Act: This act pertains to all Acute Health Care and Community Health Care Workers including Long-Term Care, Group Homes, Home Support, Emergency Health Care, Hospitals, etc

NSGEU Member Rights

Every member of the NSGEU has union rights as defined in the NSGEU Constitution & By-laws. They are aligned with the Human Rights Act of Nova Scotia: “It is our policy to ensure that all members are treated equally, fairly and without discrimination with respect to age, sex, race, religion, colour, creed, ethnic, national or aboriginal origin, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, family status, an irrational fear of contracting an illness or disease, marital status, political belief, affiliation or activity, source of income, that individual’s association with another individual or class of individuals having characteristics referred to above within the affairs of the union and in their occupation in accordance with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act.”

Negotiated Workplace Rights

A collective agreement lays out the rules both the workers and the employer agree to live by. These are your workplace rights.

They have been negotiated by your current and former co-workers and can cover everything from your rates of pay, hours of work, and vacation entitlements to enhanced OH&S rights, pensions and benefits, and job security.

Your collective agreement is a long and often complex document, but it is truly worth your while to take the time to become familiar with it.

Active members of your local, supported by NSGEU staff and legal counsel, are here to help you understand your workplace rights and to help ensure that your collective agreement is being honoured by your employer.

Your employer should have provided you with a copy of your latest collective agreement. If not, you can find it under our Locals Directory, or you can contact us directly (902-424-4063, 1-877-556-7438, and we’ll help you obtain a copy.


Do You Have Workplace Issues or Concerns?

If you feel any of your rights are being violated in the workplace, please contact your local steward or the NSGEU directly at 902-424-4063, 1-877-556-7438 or

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