MEDIA RELEASE: Union Calls for Forensic Audit, Prepares Complaint to Labour Standards Tribunal

Union Calls for Forensic Audit, Prepares Complaint to Labour Standards Tribunal

October 28, 2021

The union representing career practitioners working at Island Employment is calling for a forensic audit into financial practices at the agency and is preparing to file a formal complaint with the Labour Standards Tribunal, arguing the government’s

decision to cease Island Employment’s operation constitutes a reprisal under Nova Scotia’s whistleblower’s legislation.
Staff were the ones who initially raised concerns about the agency’s financial practices to the Ombudsman’s Office. The Ombudsman’s office then investigated these allegations under the Public Interest Disclosure of Wrong Act (PIDWA) – also known as Nova Scotia’s “whistleblower” legislation. PIDWA is designed to encourage public servants and others to expose perceived wrongdoing in the public service and to protect whistleblowers against subsequent reprisals.
Ultimately, the Office of the Ombudsman found merit in three allegations under Section 3 (j)(ii) of the PIDWA:
  • (ii) A misuse or gross mismanagement of public funds or assets.
In addition, the case study states that they found numerous administrative defects, “including conflicts of interest by employees, uncontrolled spending practices and lack of adherence to government procurement standards, indulgent spending activities related to food, promotional goods. and gifts, and inconsistent and inappropriate practices related to travel claims.” The investigation also flagged weaknesses in how the Department of Labour and Advanced Education (LAE) governed third-party agencies spending public money.
The Ombudsman’s final report and recommendations was provided to LAE and the employer in April 2021. Six months later, on October 1st, 2021, NSGEU members working at Island Employment – some of the very same members who initiated the report – were informed that the Province was ending its contract with the agency six months early.
“It seems like government has decided to make the hard-working frontline staff pay for poor management practices and government’s own failure to ensure proper use of public funds,” said NSGEU President Jason MacLean, “Instead of trying to address issues with management and the Board, government is just trying to sweep this messy situation under the rug, end the contract, and hand these jobs to another service provider.”
None of the staff affected by the termination of the contract will be transferred to the new provider. Instead, they will need to apply for “their” jobs, which have now been advertised with lesser pay and benefits, as well as new criteria that will make many of these workers ineligible for a job they have already been doing.
To add insult to injury, many of these workers are understandably concerned that their reputation has been tainted as a result of the report and the agency’s subsequent closure, and that they will be unable to find meaningful employment in their sector as a result of this action.
“A forensic audit of this agency must be conducted immediately in order to clear the names of these workers,” added MacLean. “Not only are these members dealing with the stress of losing their jobs, they are now facing barriers to finding meaningful employment in their community as a result of this situation.”
Furthermore, the NSGEU will be working with members involved to initiate complaints with the Labour Standards Tribunal, as it is the union’s opinion that the government’s decision to cease Island Employment’s operation constitutes a reprisal under Section 31 of the Public Interest Disclosure of Wrongdoing Act. In short, instead of dealing directly with the issues outlined in the Nova Scotia Ombudsman Report, government punished everyone involved, including those who first brought the gross mismanagement to the Ombudsman’s attention.
The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union represents over 31,000 workers who provide quality public services Nova Scotians count on every day.
For more information, or to arrange an interview with NSGEU President Jason MacLean, please contact:
Holly Fraughton, NSGEU Communications Officer,
902-471-1781 (cell)

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