The former vice president who recently acclaimed Jason MacLean as president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) had only been on the job a few days when a bargaining committee that included members of her union filed for conciliation.
Sandra Mullen, who previously served as 1st Vice President of the NSGEU, works as a licensing officer with the Department of Community Services in Yarmouth. She became president at the union’s triennial convention last weekend, which saw 330 union leaders gather to determine the next executive branch of the NSGEU.
Part of Mullen’s focus will be strengthening the NSGEU’s public presence by engaging with local members and empowering them to get people who used to be involved in the labour movement in Nova Scotia back to the table.
She also recognized that the cost of living will be front and center at the bargaining table, and it’s her job to try to convince employers how seriously the affordability crisis is impacting union members.
Just days after Mullen was elected NSGEU president, the Council of Health Support Bargaining Unions announced they have filed for conciliation, meaning the unions, including the NSGEU, Unifor and CUPE, are seeking third-party help due to an impasse in collective bargaining negotiations with Nova Scotia Health and the IWK to create a new contract agreement after the previous one expired more than 18 months ago.
In an interview with CityNews Halifax, Mullen noted an arbitration date has been set for June 3.
“Our folks across the province are really, just like everyone, suffering from COVID and the burnout from that,” she said, adding, “We need to get folks back on track.”
Mullen pointed to one of the biggest stressors impacting union members: short-staffing. While wage incentives are a good way to start, she said, employees also need good working conditions.
As the NSGEU enters a new era, Mullen is focused on tackling some of the union’s biggest challenges. She pointed to members struggling with the cost of living related to fuel, food and other costs driven by high inflation rates. Mullen also stated that the organization will continue to prioritize equity, diversity, and inclusion in both membership and staffing.
Mullen called MacLean a great mentor, noting they’ve worked together for over a decade.
“I firmly believe that he set us on the right path, and I fully plan to follow through on things that we didn't complete and keep going on the same way,” she said.