Workforce Issues in the NonProfit Sector – News 95.7 Interview

On March 7 a Global News broadcast highlighted the health challenges being experienced by employees of the Greater Moncton SPCA. Compassion fatigue, precarious employment, and low pay are some of the factors contributing to workplace stress within non-profit organizations.

In Nova Scotia, the non-profit sector employs over 30,000 people and contributes over 7% to the provinces GDP.  Women make up 87% of the sector’s workforce in Nova Scotia. The sector also contributes another 2.6% in volunteer labor to Nova Scotia’s GDP.

On Friday, March 8, International Women’s Day, News 95.7’s Sheldon MacLeod spoke to Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia Executive Director Arlene MacDonald about these workplace issues and the work of the Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia.

That radio broadcast can be listened to here:

Arlene emphasized that funding received by non-profits must be, according to the funding agreement, directed to delivery of their mission rather than operations. As a result, non-profits cannot give their employees peace of mind about the security of their employment. Many funding agreements only allow employers to make commitments a year at a time to their workers. These conditions help to make non-profits constantly at risk of losing our most talented and innovative workers to other sectors.

Typically, those working in the community sector:

  • lack pensions
  • lack benefit and health supports
  • receive low compensation rates
  • lack professional development opportunities; and,
  • lack secure and sustained employment.

As Arlene noted in the interview, leaving the sector often means retiring in poverty.

One of the largest challenges we have as a workforce is the fact that there is no mechanism within either the federal or the provincial government with a mandate to work with us on the health and vitality of the non-profit sector. As a result, figures cited in this post come from a single study [PDF] released in 2010.

Having up to date labour market information is critical toward addressing the workforce issues impacting the community sector. The CSCNS recently made a recommendation to the Federal Government and to the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector that a structure or a “home” be created within government to work with the sector on workforce issues and the health and sustainability of the sector’s services.

In the meantime, the CSCNS is working hard to build the capacity of the sector to support its workforce and is talking to our sector’s stakeholders about the necessity in investing in the sector’s capacity needs.