Nova Scotia health worker who said she was unfairly removed from union Facebook group has DFR complaint dismissed

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A staff clerk at the Nova Scotia Health Authority who said she was unfairly removed from a union Facebook group, among other charges, has had her duty of fair representation (DFR) complaint dismissed.

The Nova Scotia Labour Board said the complaint by the worker, LM, accused Local 191 of Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) of failing to represent her fairly, alleging arbitrary, discriminatory, and bad-faith actions.

LM, part of a bargaining unit represented by the NSGEU under the umbrella of the Nova Scotia Council of Health Administrative Professionals Unions, raised several concerns. Her allegations included being unfairly removed from a the Facebook group, dissatisfaction with her assigned Employee Relations Officer (ERO), delays in negotiating an essential health services agreement (EHSA), payroll issues, and grievances about job postings.

In response, NSGEU contended that their duty of fair representation, as outlined in Section 54A(3) of the Nova Scotia Trade Union Act, is limited to employee rights under a collective agreement. They argued that aspects of her complaint, such as issues with the Facebook group and the ERO, did not fall within this scope.

Regarding the EHSA, NSGEU suggested that LM should have pursued her complaint through the Council’s internal processes, as stipulated in their constitution.

The Board, in its analysis, referred to the Trade Union Act’s definition of a trade union’s duty of fair representation. This duty is confined to the representation of employees in regards to their rights under a collective agreement. The Board cited the precedent set in Canadian Auto Workers, Local 4600 v. Complainants 6226 2011 CanLII 21920 (NS LRB), which interpreted the scope of such complaints narrowly, focusing on the administration of existing collective agreements.

The Board concluded that LM’s concerns about her removal from the Facebook group, dissatisfaction with the ERO, and issues related to the EHSA negotiations did not relate to her rights under a collective agreement. As such, these were beyond the scope of the duty of fair representation complaints.

Regarding the payroll and job postings issues, the Board found that LM had not satisfied the necessary prerequisites for filing a complaint. Specifically, there was no evidence of her having filed a grievance or pursued relief through NSGEU’s established appeal process. Additionally, these issues, occurring most recently in 2022, were deemed statute-barred by Section 55(2) of the Trade Union Act, which requires complaints to be filed within 90 days.

As a result, the Board dismissed Morris’s complaint for lack of jurisdiction, stating that parts of it were out of scope under Section 54A(3) of the Trade Union Act and that the prerequisites under Section 55 had not been met.

For more information, see Morris v Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, Local 191, 2024 NSLB 7 (CanLII).

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