Halifax municipal candidates support fair wages, boycott scab reporters

herald-boycottBy Robert Devet

Labour issues have become part of the Halifax municipal election in more ways than one. A substantial number of candidates promised not to talk to Chronicle Herald scab reporters and made a public commitment to a living wage for city workers and contractors. 

A decision that takes guts

19 municipal candidates running for councillor in the Halifax Regional Municipality have formalized their refusal to deal with scab Chronicle Herald reporters. Altogether 50 candidates are contesting 12 seats on Council. Four other seats have been acclaimed.

That decision takes guts. Candidates who joined the boycott are giving up on getting their message out through a still fairly widely read paper, something that their opponents can exploit.    

“It’s such a tricky time,” Kate Watson, a candidate in Dartmouth, told reporter Allie Graham writing for the Signal.  “You want to win, but if you win by compromising your values, what kind of win is that?”

Chronicle Herald newsroom workers have been on strike since January. The workers are up against an owner that want to cut salaries and increase working hours, significantly reduce benefits in the defined benefit pension plan, and eliminate seniority considerations when staff are targeted for layoffs.

The company also wants to lay off 18 newsroom workers, reducing to 40 the number of newsroom staff that just seven years ago was hovering around 100.

Many arts organizations, artists and others have since refused to engage with the Herald scab reporters, often at considerable cost in terms of lost publicity. The Nova Scotia NDP caucus has had no dealings with the Herald since the start of the strike.

Support a living wage

Meanwhile Tim Bousquet, a local investigative reporter who runs the influential Halifax Examiner website asked all candidates to clarify their position on a living wage, the kind of wage that reflects the actual cost of living in an area.  An analysis by the Nova Scotia Chapter of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives and the United Way determined such a wage in Halifax to be $20.10 per hour.  

The living wage issue gained some interest when current Council awarded a parking enforcement contract to G4S, a company well known for paying minimum wage and otherwise taking advantage of precarious workers.  

In doing so, Council snubbed runner up Commissionaires Nova Scotia, and exposed its fair wage clause to be essentially meaningless.  Wages paid by the Commissionaires are considered relatively generous in an industry that is known for paying its workers as little as it can get away with.

The candidates’ responses posted on the Halifax Examiner site include quite a few mini-essays explaining their stance, allowing for plenty of wriggle room.  Yet by our count all of  20 candidates signed on the dotted line.
Not bad. Now we wait. Elections are this Saturday, October 15.

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