Interest Rates Freeze: Workers’ Wages Stagnant

The Bank of Canada paused increases to their benchmark interest rate this week, partly because consumption spending and housing investment have been weaker than they expected. But it’s not surprising that households are spending more cautiously in the face of rising interest rates and persistently weak wage growth. The puzzle is why wages are so weak in the first place.

Given the strength of other economic indicators, wages should be rising faster. The national unemployment rate is at a 40-year low. The unemployment rate for 2018 in New Brunswick was 8.0% – the second-lowest rate recorded since 1976 (it fell to 7.5% in 2007, right before the last recession).  As the Bank’s action shows, stagnant real wages have broader economic effects – when households have more money in their pockets they spend it in their local communities.

Two factors behind stubbornly weak wage growth are the growth of precarious work, and austerity budgeting from provincial governments. This is why CUPE NB is building workers’ bargaining power through our “Breaking the Mandate” campaign, aiming to end a decade of provincially mandated wage constraints.

To see how much (or little) your wages have grown, check out CUPE’s Real Wage calculator at cupe.ca/real-wage-calculator

For more information on wage stagnation in Canada, you may also consult the following articles:

Care Sector Wages Withheld by Special Care Home Owner

Fredericton – Recently, CUPE NB held a press conference demanding government to intervene so workers of Wisdom Manor, a specialized nursing home in Campbellton, receive 100% of the unpaid wages they were promised.

Wisdom Manor, Cambellton NB

Last April, Social Development had promised to subsidize a pay increase for community care service workers, who are in a critically underpaid field. Hourly wage increases ranged from $0.25 for employees in adult group homes to $1.00 for those working in special care homes, retroactive to April 1, 2018. The new funding rate for special care homes included an additional 15% to cover mandatory employer charges.

“It’s unacceptable that Wisdom Manor’s owner, Mr. Marc Carrière, still refuses to pass along these publicly funded wage subsidies to his 25 front-line employees,” decries Daniel Légère, CUPE NB President.

“Lisa Harris, the previous Social Development minister, had herself said these wages, funded and mandated by government, could not be withheld. Yet, this employer is withholding wages, in all impunity, for workers who are already at a poverty wage of $12 per hour.

CUPE NB calls on Social Development Minister Dorothy Sheppard and the new government to intervene and ensure wages are delivered for the 25 workers before Christmas.

« With employers like Mr. Carrière, it’s easy to understand why we need a public system for community care sector. It’s been over 8 months now. This employer should face real consequences in keeping what is not rightfully his,” said Laurie Anderson, President of the NB Community Service Unions.

The workers at Wisdom Manor are represented by CUPE local 5375. They are currently struggling to obtain a first collective agreement, as the employer remains to this day obstinate in avoiding talks.

 

 

Solidarity Picket for Postal Workers in Fredericton

Community activists, union members and CUPE New Brunswick members staged a solidarity picket at a Canada Post facility in Fredericton on Thursday morning. The  picket started in the early-morning hours of Thursday – after 5 am- and ended at about 9 a.m. Postal employees reporting to work at the Waggoner’s Lane facility were blocked from entry during that time.

As the Canadian Union of Postal Workers were legislated back to work by the Trudeau government, community members and CUPE members believe this flies in the face of free collective bargaining.

The Supreme Court of Canada has made itself clear in 2015, when they said the right to strike is a fundamental right and protected by the Constitution.(see Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v. Saskatchewan, 2015 SCC 4, [2015] 1 S.C.R. 245)

 

December 6 : National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

We mark the anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre, where 14 young women, mostly engineering students, were singled out and murdered because they were women.  One of the victims, Maryse Laganière, was a CUPE member who worked at the school. We also remember the missing and murdered indigenous women, the transgender people and all the others in our communities and around the world who have lost their lives to gender-based violence or who continue to experience it.

Nearly thirty years after that December day, we pause to think about the work that still lies ahead. “First mourn, then work for change” – that is the call to action inscribed on the December 6th monument in Riverview.

Everyone has a responsibility to examine their own behavior and speak out against aggression. We must also tackle the deep-rooted systemic inequalities that increase women’s vulnerability to violence. Survivors need stable employment, a living wage and income supports, access to quality child care and mental health services and so much more.

One step in the right direction in 2018 is the introduction of a new leave of absence in our provincial employment standards law for survivors of domestic, sexual or intimate partner violence.  As of September 1st of this year, New Brunswick workers are entitled to five days of paid leave if they, or their child have experienced this type of violence. The labour movement and community groups had pushed for this new protection that recognizes this violence as a workplace issue.

 

What can you and your local do to make a difference?

Participate in one of the events organized to mark this day in New Brunswick:

BATHURST: Commemorative Walk and Action on the importance of healthy relationships, Thursday, December 6, at 12:15 p.m.  The walk will start at the Bathurst Youth Center, will proceed to the Hatheway Ford dealership and return to the Bathurst Youth Center. People are encouraged to stay after the walk for refreshments, to talk to interveners and to get information on healthy relationships and similar topics.  For more information, phone (506) 545-8952 or email womenoutreach@gmail.com  Organized by Outreach to Women and Families Victim of Violence, Maison de  Passage House Inc., Bathurst Youth Centre & Nepisiguit Family Services.

FREDERICTON –  Memorial ceremony, Thursday, December 6, noon to 2:00 p.m., University of New Brunswick – Fredericton campus Head Hall Auditorium, 15 Dineen Drive. Organized by UNB Diversity Within Engineering.

RIVERVIEW – Commemorative event, Thursday, December 6, 6:30 p.m., Fr. Dan Bohan Centre, 5 Fatima Drive (next to Riverview Town Hall), followed by a candlelight vigil and laying of the roses at the monument at Caseley Park. A special collection of women’s personal care products will be collected at the door. Organized by the December 6th Committee of the Moncton and District Labour Council.  For more information phone (506) 852-9609.

SAINT ANDREWS – Commemorative coffeehouse, Thursday, December 6, 6:30 p.m start, NB Community College, 99 Augustus St., hosted by the Charlotte County Abuse Prevention Network and the NBCC. For further information, phone Charlotte County Community Outreach at (506) 469-5544.

SAINT JOHN –  Memorial, Thursday, December 6, 6:00 p.m. start, Mary Oland Theatre in NB Museum,  Market Square.  Speakers will address issues facing indigenous women and Muslim women, transgender people and labour perspectives. Representatives from FEM (Feminist Empowerment Movement), SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) and Coverdale (Centre for women in conflict with the law) will also be present. The memorial will end with a short candle-lit walk to Loyalist Plaza. For more information, contact Chris Doran at (506) 648-5729 (doran@unb.ca).

SHIPPAGAN:  Walk against violence, Thursday, December 6, departure at 12:45 p.m. from the Shippagan campus of the Université de Moncton. Before the Walk:  Kiosks, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Christmas lunch, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.  The Silent Witnesses from the Acadian Peninsula will be present. No registration required, free admission, everyone is welcome. For more information, contact Émilie Haché, phone (506) 395-7632 or email tablecontrelaviolence@gmail.com  Organized by the Table de concertation pour contrer la violence familiale et conjugale dans la Péninsule acadienne and the Comité permanent de la situation féminine de l’UMCS.

 

gw/cope491

 

PC Throne Speech Leaves Workers Behind

Fredericton –  The Progressive-Conservatives (PC) delivered their Throne Speech on Tuesday. CUPE NB is disappointed the major concern of front-line workers were not seriously addressed.

“Credit rating agencies, business interests and shrinking our fiscal plate clearly came before ordinary workers in this speech,” said Légère.

Planned WorksafeNB contribution rate increases are now jeopardized, despite employers having benefited from artificially low contribution levels for close to thirty years.

Wage increases for public sector workers were not mentioned, nor did they talk about a better minimum wage or the urgent need for a legislated living wage for private sector workers.

“No government can hide away from the problems that a decade of stagnating wages has created,” said Daniel Légère, President of CUPE NB.

“Most PC MLAs are convinced only business leaders can get New Brunswick out of its slump, but they’ve got it upside down. They forget it’s the workers, not the bosses, who truly run our mills, our schools, our ambulances, our call centres, etc. When you take care of the people as a number one priority, communities and businesses can then truly prosper,” added Légère.

Despite this criticism, CUPE NB also noted some positive elements of the speech.

“I was happy to see they plan to review the wages and working conditions of home care workers, promise to improve the Auditor General’s budget and a commit to improve our immigration strategy,” concluded Légère.

Tough negotiations ahead with minority conservative government

Last Friday, over a hundred citizens and union activists watched from the visitor gallery of the NB Legislature as Brian Gallant’s Liberals lost power on a vote of confidence.

Tories propped up by the 3 MLA of the People’s Alliance Party, will attempt to hold power for the next four years as a minority coalition government.

Immediately after the confidence vote results, CUPE bargaining teams assembled to strategize and prepare their coordinated bargaining.

“Conservatives have refused to meet with us, and now they will hold power,” noted Daniel Légère,

President of CUPE NB. “They and the PANB should take attention and really listen to workers now, instead of postponing until picket lines have to be set up,” he added.

“Despite what some government negotiators hope, this will not change our resolve, as we are following our bargaining plan to increase the buying power of members,” said Légère.

This spring, the majority of the 30 000 CUPE members in NB will simultaneously be at the bargaining table.

“CUPE Locals are lining up to take this on together. We will be ready for strike action if government refuses to talk seriously on fair wages,” concluded Légère.

Working For Cannabis NB ? Join CUPE!

Harvesting a better future

In New Brunswick, Cannabis NB is the only legally authorized retailer for cannabis products. Despite good development prospects, the Crown corporation does not seem ready to commit to make these jobs stable and have all the benefits that should come with such a profitable industry. At CUPE, we feel this can change and we want to help Cannabis NB staff achieve job security and gain negotiated improvements to their working conditions. This is why Canadian Union of Public Employees is organizing Cannabis NB workers.

The CUPE advantage:

  • Job security. Protection against unjust layoffs and potential management abuses.
  • Better wages. Collectively bargained wage increases.
  • Scheduling fairness.
  • Vacations, pension, insurance and other benefits.
  • Networking and support within the union movement
  • Experience. CUPE already represents workers in the retail of controlled substances. Alcohol NB workers, for example, are unionized with CUPE.
  • Union strength. With over 650 000 members nationwide, CUPE is the largest union in Canada and in NB. This means resources and staff to represent and help members.

Visit our website: https://www.cupecannabis.ca/ and call or email our organizer today !

Stacy Delaney
sdelaney@cupe.ca
902-315-4366

No surprises in this toned-down throne speech

Fredericton – As a new session of the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly begins, a Throne Speech was delivered today. CUPE NB has a mixed reaction to the decidedly centrist speech from the Gallant Liberals.

“For one, I am pleased to see a clear will to maintain the Labour-Government Steering Committee,” said Daniel Légère, President of CUPE NB.

In only one year, the Committee led discussions which became legislation on First contract arbitration, and laws to prevent violence in the workplace and domestic violence.

“It was out of the Steering Committee that a Taskforce was struck to scrutinize privatization in healthcare, and this Taskforce wisely recommended not to proceed with privatization of management of food services, patients portering and environmental services in our hospitals. This was important,”noted Légère.

CUPE NB supports the idea of increasing the overall budget for the Auditor General, and implementing their recommendations for more efficient public spending.

“Auditor Generals recognize the importance of transparency and accountability. Like in other provinces, they are an independent third party looking after the public purse and are a safeguard against privatization schemes like P3s,” said Légère.

CUPE NB is disappointed to see how the Liberals have altered their commitment on a minimum wage increase schedule and opened up room for uncertainty on if and when workers would get closer to a $15 living minimum wage. They have also announced more measures to reduce taxes on businesses.

“The best way to stimulate growth is by raising our collective buying power, and that means better wages in the public and private sector. The speech did not mention public sector buying power. It’s unfortunate they are still shying away from the problems that a decade of stagnating wages has created,” said Légère.

CUPE Message to New MLAs : Workers Wages Must Go Up

Fredericton – CUPE NB held a press conference on Thursday to discuss wages in the public sector and the urgent need for a stable progressive government to deal with the issue.

“After 8 months of consultation, education sessions, meeting thousands of members in the provincial tour and grassroots member mobilization, our Bargaining Forward movement is now in full swing,” said Daniel Légère, president of CUPE NB.

“MLAs cannot shy away from the problems that a decade of stagnating wages creates,” said Légère.

Thousands of CUPE members are currently held in a bargaining limbo with provincial government, notably CUPE Locals 1251, 1190, 1418, 1840, 2745, 946 at WorkSafe NB and Nursing Home Workers. “This limbo is unnecessarily wasting resources for both sides,” said Sandy Harding, CUPE Maritimes Regional Director.

“We reached out to all 5 political parties to discuss this, all responded except the Alliance and the PCs,” said Harding.  “This shows a lack of respect for the women and men who serve our communities. No matter what political configuration will emerge, I hope MLAs will come to recognize and deal with this issue,” she added.

Workers’ resolve to obtain higher wages is strong and they are coordinating their bargaining.

“If the government can’t come up with a fair and timely deal, workers will make themselves heard,” said Légère.

Consumer spending drives close to 70% of our economy, but too many workers are taking on debt to make up for stagnant or declining purchasing power. “This is not enough to jolt the economy and it’s not viable in the long term. Growth is needed in this province, and workers’ purchasing power is a key part in the equation,” concluded Légère.

CUPE NB represents close to 30,000 members in more than 200 locals. Major sectors within the Union include health care, education, nursing homes, municipalities and transportation. Find us online at www.nb.cupe.ca or follow us on Facebook.com/cupeNBscfp/.

 

 

WorkSafe NB: CUPE Reaction to Taskforce Recommendations

Fredericton – CUPE New Brunswick held a press conference this Monday to challenge the recommendations made by the Taskforce responsible for evaluating WorkSafeNB.

“Like the NB Ombuds has said, the Taskforce produced “simplistic” recommendations, and they kept a decidedly pro-employer, rather than a pro-worker stance when they proposed changes to a system made to help injured workers,” said Daniel Légère, President of CUPE NB.

While the union does not oppose all 28 recommendations contained in the report, CUPE has major concerns such as:

  • Unnecessarily limiting the powers of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal;
  • Keeping resources for injured workers services low to support privatization;
  • Insufficient workers’ and injured workers’ input and consultation to future changes to theOccupational Health and Safety Act; and
  • The lack of transparency in the appointment of worker representatives on the Taskforce.

There are also concerns around the potential privatization of the WorkSafeNB Rehabilitation Centre in Grand Bay. “It is troublesome how the Taskforce has recommended annual reviews of service delivery options and results with an eye to “finding efficiencies”. This is a frequent code word for privatization and jeopardizes the future of the Centre,” said Légère.

The Return to work initiatives must put injured workers first. “I fear the recommendations pushes WorkSafeNB to focus on “early” return rather than “safe” return to work,” added Patrick Roy, CUPE’s Health and Safety Representative.