Deadlock in Local 1251 Negotiations: Higgs forcing a strike on essential workers

Moncton Airport Screening, 2021. CUPE Local 1251 are deployed to do COVID-19 screening at the airports and borders of NB.

April 27, 2021 – CUPE Local 1251 held a press conference to announce it had filed a notice of deadlock in negotiations with the NB Labour and Employment Board.  Local 1251 represents approximately 800 front line professional Correctional Officers, Human Service Councillors, Laundry Service and custodial workers working for the province.

“Our members have been without a contract for almost 4 years and government still refuses to bring any fairness to the bargaining talks. Higgs is forcing a strike on essential workers. It’s unbelievable and unethical,” said Chris Curran, President of CUPE Local 1251.

“Even if they protect our borders, clean our hospital’s laundry, sanitize government workplaces and keep our communities safe, this government does not really care if they put their lives on the line every day,” said CUPE National Servicing Representative Mike Davidson.

Over the last several years the Union has been lobbying the Government to fix the retention and recruitment issues in correctional facilities. Many jails are understaffed and under resourced.  The union also demands proper job-posting contract terms. “We have seen regular positions vacant being filled by casual workers in excess of 5 years and longer,” said Chris Curran. “It should not be like this,” he added.

“The root causes of recruitment and retention problems are more than obvious. NB Correctional officers remain among the lowest paid in Canada. Add lack of posting requirements with the exploitation of casuals, and you compound an already dangerous work environment with the revolving door syndrome,” said Davidson.

CUPE 1251 workers have continued to provide critical services to protect New Brunswickers and their families during the pandemic. They have gone over and above working outside their scope of work ensuring our borders and airports are protected with COVID-19 screening. Our work is much more dangerous fighting this pandemic in our workplaces than from behind a podium.

“Meanwhile Higgs had no qualms in putting ministerial ethics aside to push the NB Energy Commission in raising heating oil and gas price on ordinary people to help the Irvings’ profit margins,” said Davidson. “He bends over backwards for the Irvings and does not care about the rising cost of living to the rest of New Brunswickers, including the increased housing, construction costs, food, heating, etc. Yet, most workers are seeing their buying power diminish year after year.,” he added.

“Our members have never stopped working, protecting New Brunswickers through this pandemic and deserve a fair wage to at least keep up with the rising costs. The reality is a large portion of our membership with full time hours, take home less than the $2,000 monthly CERB payment- Higgs wants to continue paying substandard wages to our members!” noted Curran.

“When will this Premier see that fair wages and working conditions are what keeps our communities prosperous?” said Curran. “By neglecting to invest in struggling public services and our member’s who strengthen our local economies, it would definitely help our struggling small businesses in our communities. Higgs is forcing a strike on our members and your services. Heroes don’t deserve zeroes!” he concluded.