Child care funding increase will help single parents in New Brunswick

CUPE NB applauds the provincial government’s investment to enact free childcare for low-income families and raise salaries of early-learning and childcare workers.

“This is a step in the right direction. Low income single-parent families are the ones who will benefit the most,” said Daniel Légère, president of CUPE NB. “More spaces, more accessibility, lifting people out of poverty…This is certainly good news,” said Légère.

However, families with an annual gross income over $37,500 (pre-tax) will not qualify for the Free childcare program. “I am troubled to notice how two parents, with full-time minimum wage jobs, will not qualify for the program,” noted Erin McAllister, NB representative on CUPE’s National Child Care Working Group.

Families earning over $37,500 could, however be eligible for targeted childcare subsidies, following a sliding scale.  Province-wide implementation of this subsidy system is scheduled for March 1, 2019, six months after the coming 2018 provincial election.

“I hope the principle of universality in child care becomes a reality in our province. Universality means everybody has access, regardless of ability to pay, but everybody chips in their measure through a fair progressive taxation system. Unlike sliding scales, it is simpler, it reduces red tape and does not penalize any parents,” said McAllister.

CUPE, anti-poverty activists, professionals and academics recognize how making childcare accessible to all is among the best investment government can make, both socially and economically.

CUPE’s National Child Care Working Group advocates for universal, affordable, not-for-profit, regulated, high quality, unionized child care.

 

New Brunswick needs more operators, plows and a real 24/7 work capacity

CUPE Local 1190, representing New Brunswick Highway workers, held a news conference today urging the Transportation Minister to overhaul the Department’s snow removal program.

“Last week’s weather bomb gave citizens a clear picture of the current difficulties plaguing the Winter Maintenance Program,” said Andy Hardy, president of Local 1190.

The union identified three major issues that need attention:

  • The 11 p.m. – 4 a.m. shutdown Department directive;
  • The 7 cm of snow restriction; and
  • The uniform salt and sand directive for districts, which fails to take into account provincial weather patterns.

The 11 p.m. – 4 a.m. shutdown directive forces plow operators to stop operations at night. The Department also demands its operators follow the “7 cm of snow” rule: to reduce the overall number of runs, plows can only hit the roads once 7 cm of snow has fallen.

“Our Divisions operate with no spares, and people need to take sleep breaks, so management got creative to mask the holes in what should be a continuous operation,” said Hardy. “However, Mother Nature works 24/7,” he added.

“We call on the Minister Fraser to take the bull by the horns: get rid of these directives that make our roads unsafe. Deal with their root cause: start with hiring one spare per division. This would be a good step to begin reversing the cuts to permanent staff and equipment over the last years,” said Hardy.

Local 1190 estimates that over 80 operator positions and 40 plows have been eliminated since 2011‑2012.

At the conference, CUPE Local 1190 officially relaunched their “Bad Road Hot Line” for tracking road conditions. The public is invited to use the hashtag #badroadsNB to share pictures and driving stories on social media to get heard by politicians.

Hardy was joined by Local 4848, representing CUPE Paramedics, and Local 1253, representing CUPE school bus drivers.

Daniel Légère among the 30 most influential Francophones in NB

Every new year, the provincial daily L’Acadie Nouvelle publishes a list of the most influential New Brunswickers. This year, CUPE NB President Daniel Légère made the 19th position, moving up from 22nd position in 2017. As one of the dominant voices of the labour movement in NB, Brother Légère is the only trade-unionist to figure on this list of NB Francophones “holding an important economic and political power”.

CUPE has earned a lot of media attention this year, particularly on the issues of privatization in healthcare (Sodexo and Medavie), the new legislation on first contract arbitration, pay equity, precarious work and the sale of cannabis.

Link to the Acadie Nouvelle article: www.acadienouvelle.com/actualites/2017/12/30/30-neo-brunswickois-francophones-plus-influents-2/

Extra-Mural and Sodexo Privatization to be Major Electoral Issues

It’s not always easy to hold a protest at noon on a snowy weekday, but CUPE NB took up the challenge last Monday. On December 11, some 175 people gathered with signs at Prime Minister Brian Gallant’s constituency office in Dieppe on Monday, December 11. All were demonstrating against the Liberal government’s leadership on health care in New Brunswick. CUPE NB stood side by side with community groups, students, seniors and many others to say no to Sodexo and Medavie.

“The privatization of extramural and Tele-Care management at Medavie is as frustrating for citizens as the privatization of food management for cleaning and patient transportation,” said Daniel Légère, President of CUPE NB.

Victor Boudreau, now ex-health minister, explained that privatization would not be a “cost-cutting exercise”. His successor, Benoît Bourque, has not denied this but still refuses to disclose the terms of both contracts to the public.

The province has been negotiating with Sodexo, a for-profit company, since 2014. However, there are rumours that the Sodexo case could be turned due to unforeseen costs.

Medavie Health Services, headquartered in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, is scheduled to take over the management of the Extra Mural on January 1, 2017. Medavie has been awarded a 10-year contract without having to switch to through a tendering process or an ordinary tender. The CBC reported that the expected cost of transferring the transactions will be $ 4.4 million for the first year.

Jennifer McKenzie, NB NDP Leader, attended the event. “It’s not just about ending privatization, it’s about reversing it, reversing the damage,” McKenzie said.

Representatives from the Société de l’Acadie du Nouveau Brunswick rightly noted that “it was problematic that an insurance company, Medavie Blue Cross, would now get access to thousands of patients’ health files”.

As of today, Medavie and its subsidiaries (including Ambulance NB) have not been subjected to impartial external (rather than internal) performance evaluations of their public-private contracts.

CUPE Makes Inroads to Help Victims of Intimate Partner Violence

Saint John – Recently, the provincial government has given more attention to intimate partner violence issues. CUPE NB exhorts the government to enact legislation similar to what was done one year ago in Ontario, with Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act passed in 2017.

Amongst many other changes, this law provides ten days of leave, with five days of paid leave, as well as unpaid leave and the opportunity for flexible work arrangements for victims of sexual, as well as domestic violence.

 “We have one local, CUPE Local 846 in Saint John, who just signed a contract which has similar language to what is written in Bill 148, to deal with domestic violence” said Daniel Légère, President of CUPE NB. CUPE Local 846 represents dietary workers at the Ridgewood Addiction Services in South Bay.

“To my knowledge, I do not know of any other workplace in New Brunswick that has this kind of language. This is groundbreaking and I am proud that CUPE got it for those members. CUPE will push to spread this language in other agreements. I seriously urge employers and the government to accept this language in their coming negotiations. This should be the norm, not the exception,” said Légère.

“Government is looking to update the Occupational Health and Safety Act. It’s time we also look to update the Employment Standards Act to help all workers dealing with intimate partner violence, unionized or not,” concluded Légère.

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

We mark the anniversary of the murder of 14 young women in 1989 at the University of Montreal’s engineering school, killed because they were women. We also pause to remember the women in our community, our country and around the world who have died as a result of gender-based violence or who continue to experience violence in their lives.

“First mourn, then work for change” – the inscription on the December 6th monument in Riverview is also a call to action.  It’s time to reinforce our commitment to end the violence that still reaches into our homes, our communities and our workplaces. That means identifying and tackling the systemic inequalities that fuel gender-based violence. More action is needed on many fronts:  improved policing and judicial responses, better services and supports for victims, including initiatives for access to employment, decent income and pay equity. More focus on prevention is essential, encouraging men to examine their own behaviour and to speak out against aggression.

 

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

 

BATHURST: Commemorative Walk and Action to End Violence, Wednesday, December 6, at noon. The walk will start in the empty lot next to the Royal Bank and continue on King St., St. George St., Douglas Avenue and Main St. It will be followed by a short ceremony at Place Eve (219 Main St.) Coffee and tea will be served.  For more information, phone: (506) 546-9540 or email: maisonpassagehouse@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, Tuesday, December 5, 2:30 p.m, University of New Brunswick – Fredericton campus, Dineen Auditorium in Head Hall, 15 Dineen Drive. The event will feature talks from Dr. Carmen Poulin, Dr. Lori Leach and Dr. Katy Haralampides. A reception will follow in Dineen Auditorium. Hosted by the UNB  Women in Engineering Society.

MIRAMICHI –  Vigil, Wednesday, December 6, 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at NBCC Miramichi, lecture theatre 1145. For more information, call Jessica, (506) 778-6496.

RIVERVIEW –  Commemorative event, Wednesday, 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, Wednesday, December 6, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., NB Community College, 99 Augustus St., hosted by the Charlotte County Abuse Prevention Network and Wesley United Church. The event will include live music, student art and refreshments. For further information, phone Charlotte County Community Outreach at (506) 469-5544.

SAINT JOHN –  Memorial Service, Wednesday, December 6, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., at UNB Saint John’s Grand Hall, King’s Square, 40 Charlotte St.   Representatives from the Sexual Assault Response team, the Female Empowerment Movement, the Domestic Violence Outreach program and the Coverdale Center for Women will all be speaking on current issues affecting women in the Saint John and surrounding area. Musical offerings will also be provided by Brent Mason, Tricia Wilson and Jillian Wong. The evening will end with a short candle-lit vigil from the Grand Hall to King’s Square. For more information, contact Norah Siddall at 721-0900 (norahjsiddall@yahoo.ca) or Chris Doran at 648 5729 (doran@unb.ca).

SHIPPAGAN:  Commemorative Walk, Wednesday, 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 with special guests, 11 a.m. 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.

CUPE NB Present at WorkSafeNB Consultations

On November 22, CUPE NB delivered a presentation to the independent working group tasked with reviewing the New Brunswick workers’ compensation system.

The consultation dealt mainly with the financial situation and overall objectives of WorkSafeNB. Along making recommendations to the legislation and governance of the agency, CUPE NB denounced the current under-funding of the Workers’ Compensation Fund.

“I support the position of the Ombudsman: the employer contribution rates to the fund to protect injured workers remains too low. The fund requires a hike between 30% and 50%, not that paltry 15% they [WorksafeNB] announced,” says Daniel Légère, president of CUPE NB.

President Légère’s presentation touched on 5 key points:

  1. Increase investment in WorkSafeNB Rehabilitation Centre;
  2. Expedite the claims process by hiring more front-line staff at WorkSafeNB;
  3. Abolish the three-day waiting period;
  4. Stop the mismanagement of the surplus funds; and
  5. Improve WorksafeNB’s governance

Last week, Ombudsman Charles Murray denounced the underfunding and menaces of cuts at WorksafeNB.

We have to understand WorkSafe premiums are designed to fully fund protection for workers. That’s their goal. They’re not a business recruitment tool,” said Murray to CBC journalists.

 

CUPE NB Strengthens Its Strike Readiness

Union locals in New Brunswick will benefit from a new and upgraded strike pay policy that was passed during CUPE’s National Biennial Convention in Toronto. The policy ensures that members will now receive strike pay from the first day of any strike or lockout

The past Strike Fund regulations provided strike pay five days after commencement of job action by members.

“CUPE New Brunswick will also help on those first four days, so members can benefit from a double strike pay on those crucial days,” said Daniel Légère, CUPE NB president.

“This will help our locals going to the negotiating table: they now know they will be supported every step of the way,” said Légère. “This fits neatly with our new Bargaining policy against concessions and two-tiered agreements,” he added.

In 2017, CUPE’s National Strike Fund reached over 90 million dollars.

“It’s time we use the financial strength we have built in our National Strike Fund to help our locals bargain forward. More than ever, we can successfully push back concessions and two-tiered proposals,” concluded Légère.

Workers’ Compensation System is Dangerously Underfunded

Fredericton – While the NB Legislature was reopening tuesday, CUPE NB members were outside holding a protest for the rights of injured workers. Union members denounced recent cuts to the workers’ compensation fund.

“WorkSafe NB was created for people, not profits,” said Daniel Légère, President of CUPE NB.
“The CEO of WorkSafe NB is doing like McKenna: Underfunding the very system created to protect injured workers and their families. We have yet to come back from the 1992 cuts,” said Légère.

Earlier this year, WorkSafe NB had announced its intention to make a necessary increase in the rates collected from employers to ensure sustainability of the workers’ compensation fund. Business interests lobbied against the measure, and WorkSafe NB’s Board of Directors buckled. On October 2, 2017, they announced a meagre 22 cents increase per $100 of payroll. New Brunswick’s rate ($1.70 per $100) is amongst the lowest provincial rates in Canada.

“This month, WorkSafe NB’s Board of Directors even admitted they are far from even meeting basic operating costs to manage the workers’ compensation fund. Simply maintaining the fund would have required an additional 23 cents increase ($1.93 per $100 of payroll), said Légère.

As long-term sustainability of the fund has been jeopardized by WorkSafe NB’s Board or Directors, CUPE NB is worried attrition, cuts and even privatization, might be on the horizon.

“Our own members, CUPE Local 1866, which represents members working at WorkSafe NB, see the unnecessary harm being done to individuals and their families. The public needs to know what is going on,” said Légère.

CUPE and the Federation of Labour have communicated with the Labour Minister and recommended funds to the Workers’ Compensation be restored at pre-1992 levels. This would permit the following:

  1. Eliminating the 3-day wait period for injured workers;
  2. Increasing benefits for injured and deceased workers; and
  3. Expediting the claims process by hiring more front-line staff at WorkSafe NB.