Local 70 – South Shore Regional Centre for Education Update on Total Compensation Alignment Process for Members working at SSRCE

As you are aware, during the last round of bargaining, the Parties agreed to enter into a process to align the total compensation for support staff working within your Centre for Education with the highest rate in the Province within each classification. In order to determine the highest total compensation for each classification, a number of factors need to be considered and analyzed.

The Process:

First, the Parties must gather and determine the top base hourly rate for each classification at each Centre and the CSAP. This is a complex process, as not all collective agreements lay out pay rates by the hour. Where they do not, the Parties need to determine the hourly rate by dividing the base yearly salary by the days worked per year and the hours worked per day for each classification. This varies widely between the Centres and the classifications. Although the Union is able to access some information from our own collective agreements and those of other unions where similar classifications exist, we are not able to access pay rates for non-unionized staff who work in similar classifications to yours. We have asked the employers, the Nova Scotia Education Common Services Bureau and the Department of Education for this information. Although some rates have been provided, we are still waiting to receive much more information on the rates for non-unionized staff.

After a base hourly rate is determined for each classification at each Centre, the Parties must consider a number of other factors in order to determine the hourly rate from a total compensation perspective. Total compensation is not simply based on your hourly rate. Things like vacation, pension and benefits all play a role in your total compensation. Based on the language of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) agreed to at bargaining and the accompanying Side Letter these factors need to be considered in determining your hourly rate, but also in determining the highest provincial rate to compare and align to, from a total compensation perspective. One factor that is specifically excluded in determining the total compensation rate is any Employment Insurance payments that members may receive during periods of lay-off.

To date, the employers have not considered an evaluation of benefits or pension into the determination of total compensation and we believe this places members at a disadvantage, as it will result in a lesser gap between your total rate and the highest total rate in the Province. We have relayed this to the other Party and are awaiting a response from them in terms of the inclusion of these factors. In the interim, due to the complexity of measuring the value of various pension and benefit plans against one another, we have reached out to a third party to work on the analysis. This will give us in-depth and accurate information to advocate with on your behalf with respect to these two components.

Additionally, the Union does not agree with the vacation calculation that the Employers are using to calculate vacation entitlement. We believe the calculation presented to-date is not reflective of what weighted average should be used to determine the value of vacation at each Centre. We have relayed this and are waiting for new calculations to be communicated.

The Parties must also review the job descriptions for each classification in order to determine if the scope and complexity of work is relatively the same with similarly titled jobs at other Centres or the CSAP. This will be a less complex process for some classifications, specifically those that are governed by provincial regulations, whereas other classifications may be more difficult to analyze due to variances in scope of responsibility from Centre to Centre. The Parties then make a determination as to what that classification would compare to amongst all Centres and the CSAP.

In order to conduct the appropriate analysis, a committee of sorts has been struck that includes members of the Human Resource teams from Tri-county Regional Centre for Education, Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education and South Shore Regional Centre for Education as well as representatives from both the Department of Education and the Nova Scotia Common Services Bureau. For the NSGEU, representatives include Public Education Employee Relations Officers Lloyd Samson and Shawn Johnson as well as Nicole McKim, Director of Servicing and Negotiations. The Parties have met several times and communications between meetings has been on-going. Several more dates are scheduled for later in May.

How long will this take?

In an effort to move the process along as efficiently as possible, it was agreed amongst the Parties that we would review certain classifications at a time so that we do not get bogged down with the complex analysis for all classifications at once. The agreement between the Parties is that once the rate is determined for each classification, the Employer will apply the rate to the respective classification. We believe this will ensure that monies are paid out as quickly as possible as it will not result in holding up one classification while we determine the rates for another. Currently the parties are focusing on the classifications of ECE/Lead ECE as well as the EA/TA/EPA classifications. These classifications were selected because they are provincially regulated and therefore they are the simplest to compare job descriptions across the Province due to fewer variances across each Centre for Education and the CSAP. Next, we expect that we will receive rates and job descriptions for the classification of Student Support Workers and Native Student Advisors. Despite the focus on specific classifications at the committee level, the Union has requested job descriptions for all classifications so that we can begin analysis on these in advance of discussions with the Parties. To date, we have not been provided with these job descriptions.

The MOA signed by the Parties at bargaining allows for a dispute mechanism in the form of a referral to a mutually agreed to arbitrator. Although there now seems to be potential that we will overcome the disputes at hand with respect to the vacation calculation and the inclusion of pension and benefits, the Union anticipates that there will be other disputes throughout the process. As such we have notified the employer that we wish to enlist the assistance of an arbitrator to hear and resolve any disputes as they arise and the Parties are currently attempting to agree on an arbitrator. It is our hope that enlisting the assistance of an arbitrator now will help to ensure that we meet the goal of completing the analysis by August 30, 2023.

Advance payment

As you know, the Employer is obligated to pay a 1.5% advance payment to eligible classifications toward parity. That payment will be made retroactive to the date of ratification of the agreement (November 2022) and it will be made to qualified or partially qualified classifications who are not already highest paid in the province. Should a portion of the parity advance put a classification equal to the highest paid in the province, then that classification will only receive that portion necessary to reach the highest pay. To date, your Employer has refused to pay this advancement. The Union has been advocating for your Employer to pay the 1.5% advance immediately to any classification where it becomes obvious that the overall increase will exceed that amount. We know that our members need money now and we will continue to advocate on your behalf.

Any classifications which are not paid at the top rate in the province following the application of the 1.5% advance payment, are eligible to receive further increases that will bring them to parity with the highest paid in the Province. Effective April 1, 2023 the parties agreed to adjust the hourly rate for these classifications so that it would bridge half of the remaining gap with the top rate. Then, on March 31, 2024, those classifications will receive the remaining amount required to achieve the top rate, which will bring you to total compensation wage alignment to the top rate for your classification in the Province. However, until the total compensation can be determined for each classification, the April 1, 2023 payment will be delayed as we do not yet know what the gap amounts to until the analysis is complete, but will be retroactive to April 1, 2023.

The Union is currently in discussions with your Employer to have benefits adjusted and repaid for those who had benefits deducted during the strike.

We appreciate your continued patience as we work through this matter. If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to us by calling 902-424-4063 (toll-free 1-877-556-7438) or emailing inquiry@nsgeu.ca. Thank you!

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