Healthcare Delayed is Healthcare Denied: Reopen Clinic 554

Fredericton CUPE NB adds its voice to community leaders, legislators, activists and organizations denouncing the provincial Government’s inactions on the closure of Fredericton’s Clinic 554.

“CUPE NB’s position is clear: patients can’t wait. Healthcare delayed is healthcare denied,” said Brien Watson, President of CUPE NB.

Clinic 554 is a doctor-run family practice clinic. Their work includes all scopes of medicine, from pediatrics to geriatrics with a focus on reproductive, trans, LGBTQ2+, addiction medicine and HIV care.

With recent reports that some 37,000 people are on the wait list for a family doctor, forcing the closure of this clinic only worsens the problem.  “Fund and reopen now, and work to make the clinic part of a greater public clinic and medication-delivery system, which NB desperately needs,” said Watson.

“The Premier can fix this crisis with a stroke of his pen. Regulation 84-20, which prevents abortions from being covered by Medicare when performed outside hospitals, is forcing the closure of Clinic 554. It should be repealed immediately, through a simple Order-in-Council,” said Watson.

With the closure of Clinic 554, abortion services will not be available in two the three largest cities in New Brunswick. There are only three hospitals in the province providing the service – 2 in Moncton, and 1 in Bathurst – far out of the reach of many women in need.

CUPE NB believes the province should set up a network of publicly run clinics, from walk-in clinics to more specialized care clinics, across the province. This would ease congestion in our emergency rooms and improve overall access to primary healthcare across the province. “A Medicare card should be all you need to get care when you step into a public clinic, from treating the common cold to getting an abortion,” said Watson.

Until such a network is set up, the province has the legal obligation to provide accessible, adequate and affordable abortion access and LGBTQ2+-friendly care for all, and that requires Clinic 554.

A Hundred CUPE Signs Stolen in Miramichi and Oromocto

September 11, 2020 – As a registered third-party advertiser in the NB provincial election, CUPE NB had put up close to 250 outdoor signs denouncing the inaction of the Progressive Conservatives and Peoples Alliance Party on workers’ issues. More than a hundred were stolen in the last four days in Miramichi, Oromocto and Saint John.

The square 2×2 signs had simple messages such as “Remember Michelle Conroy turned her back on Nursing Home workers”, “Remember: Higgs said workers should move to Alberta if they wanted better wages” and more.

“We suspect PC and PANB partisans were involved in an organized effort,” said Brien Watson, President of CUPE NB.  “Residents in the Miramichi have sent us images of individuals caught stealing the CUPE NB signs,” he added.

This week, many PANB supporters bragged on public Facebook posts about burning the signs in their fire pits.

“The truth hurts for the PC and PANB members. We are playing by the rules, but despite this, they are going above and beyond to break the law to deny workers their democratic right to express themselves in this election” said Watson.

CUPE NB has reached out to the Miramichi Police force and they have begun an investigation.

In Oromocto, over 45 CUPE NB signs were stolen in less than 12 hours.  “This is not the work of a few teenagers. This is a deliberate and coordinated action. It’s against the law and is an affront to the workers’ right to express themselves lawfully in this election,” said Watson.

The RCMP in the Oromocto region has told CUPE NB they would be asking local businesses to share exterior CCTV footage to identify the individuals.

Election sign vandalism can result in charges under the Criminal Code of Canada. CUPE NB asks that anyone who sees vandalism or theft of election signs to call police or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Premier Should Not Deny Seniors’ Right to Vote

FREDERICTON – Blaine Higgs called a snap election without having provided Elections New Brunswick with enough legal flexibility to ensure seniors’ right to vote in the current context. CUPE NB denounces this situation and demands the Premier intervene to ensure seniors’ Charter right to vote are guaranteed.

Highlights:

  • Before calling the election, Premier Higgs could have convened the Legislature to ensure the NB Elections Act would have sufficient provisions and flexibility to deal with the realities of COVID-19.
  • On August 25, Chief Electoral Officer Kim Poffenroth revealed to Brunswick News how the NB Elections Act did not give her the authority to create a special voting process, special hours, methods or any tailored voting process to help immunocompromised seniors. Voting by phone would have been possible in October if Election NB had received the go ahead before the election was called.
  • The NB Council of Nursing-Home Unions has made it clear that there are insufficient staffing levels in nursing homes to assist Elections NB personnel to help seniors vote.

Quotes:

  • “The Premier has knowingly planned an election without serious considerations for seniors’ right to vote. This is either crass negligence or an electoral move to raise barriers against the very people who would want to vote against his attempt at a power grab.” – Brien Watson, President of CUPE NB.
  • “CUPE NB believes that seniors, just like any other group of citizens, deserve fairness and equity. Despite what Higgs might wish for, seniors’ right to vote is guaranteed under article 3 of the Charter. They should not face any barriers to exercise their constitutional right to vote.” – Brien Watson

Quick facts:

  • If citizens are unable to exercise their right to vote because of obstacles inherent in the electoral rules or the way they are implemented, these barriers constitute a restriction which is not allowed under Article 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[1]
  • In 2017, GNB’ Aging Strategy showed there were 147,929 seniors in NB, which is equal to 19.5% of our total population.[2]

[1] Bringing the Ballot Box to Voters: In 1992, Federal Bill C-78 was passed to make access to the vote easier in a number of ways. Among the improvements were mobile polling stations that serve many seniors and persons with disabilities in the institutions where they live. https://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=his&document=chap4&lang=e

 

[2] https://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/sd-ds/pdf/Seniors/AnAgingStrategyForNB.pdf

Workplace Death Threats Must Be Treated Seriously

Moncton, NB – CUPE Local 1252, the union representing 10 000 healthcare workers in New Brunswick, denounces Regional Health Authorities’ inaction on a series of death threats made to a hospital worker in Moncton. https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0879/0542/products/pc1519@2x.jpg?v=1514009356

Over the course of 8 months, a CUPE member working in a Moncton area hospital received 3 death threats. The first two were put on the employee’s locker as notes, and the most recent note was left in early August 2020, inside the locker. The notes contained discriminatory language that was an attack on the LGBTQ community and the victim’s sexual orientation.

“The Employer did not treat the issue seriously until the Union pushed them to have a formal investigation,” said Denis Brun, CUPE National Representative, for the Moncton Hospital and the George L. Dumont Hospital.

“Management did nothing until the third note. At first, they treated this like a joke. They even told the victim to take a 5-minute break, shrug it off and get back to work. This is unacceptable,” said Brun.

To this day, the Employer has not yet discovered the identity of the perpetrator.

The presidents of each local in the NB Council of Hospital Unions are asking politicians to improve the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  “Workplace violence and harassment is mentioned in the law, but the Act needs real teeth to compel employers to investigate such acts seriously,” say Tiffenny Lloyd and Susan Touchie, presidents of CUPE Locals 821 and 720.

 Up until April 1, 2019, New Brunswick was the only Canadian province or territory with no Occupational Health and Safety regulatory scheme dealing specifically with workplace violence and harassment.

In the Spring of 2018, CUPE surveyed its healthcare members. Over 56% of the respondents claimed to have filed a violent incident report and were not satisfied by their Employer’s response. Up to 25% of respondents say no actions were ever taken by their Employer after filing an incident report.  

Fredericton Transit Workers: Province Should Take Transit Funds

August 14, 2020 – CUPE Local 1783, representing municipal transit workers in Fredericton, is adding its voice to other unions, associations and municipalities pushing Higgs to opt in on federal transit funds.

“Premier Higgs said he had opted out of the transit portion of the Safe Restart Agreement apparently because there was only capital funding for infrastructure. That’s not correct. There are also operating funds available to address municipal transit shortcomings related to COVID-19,” said Lori Forget, President of CUPE Local 1783.

In Ontario, the provincial government opted in the transit portion of the Safe Restart Agreement. Guelph, which is comparable in size to Greater Moncton, is receiving $5,096,534 for its transit system.

“The province has nothing to lose in compensating municipalities for lost fare revenue and maintain transit service levels for both public health and economic reasons,” added Forget.

“The government should take advantage of the operating fund and also look at infrastructure cost shares,” said CUPE NB President Brien Watson. “NB has one of the oldest municipal bus fleets in the country. If we want to make a just transition to a clean, green economy and society, that requires an expanded and more accessible public transit system,” he added.

 

“We are proud to stand together on this issue with our union brothers and sisters of the Amalgamated Transit Union locals in Moncton and Saint John,” concluded Watson.

 

CUPE Local 1783 represents 45 municipal transit workers in Fredericton. 

Majority of NB Nursing Home Workers Ratify New Agreement

Fredericton, July 6 2020 – Today the majority of the NB Council of Nursing Home Union (NBCNHU) members approved the tentative agreement reached between their bargaining team and the provincial government.

Over the last two weeks, the 51 nursing homes represented by the NBCNHU participated in the ratification process of the tentative agreement that was reached on May 26, 2020. The 6-year deal covers the period between October 2016 to October 2022.

Each of the 51 nursing home union locals’ members had the right to accept or refuse the deal through secret ballot. Forty-five locals voted in favour to accept and 6 locals voted to reject.

“Although the NBCNHU supported bringing the tentative agreement back for over 4400 members to decide, we all agree, this deal does not fix all the working conditions issues in our field,” said Sharon Teare, President of the NB Council of Nursing Homes.

“We will continue to push the Government on being accountable to the Letters of Agreement to address the increased acuity of care with every home and increase direct care hours. For those 6 homes that have rejected the deal, we will reach out to them in order to determine what our next step will be,” said Teare.

The NBCNHU recognizes how the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the crisis that has been affecting long-term care for years. “Just like healthcare, long-term care should be a true, universal and accessible public service,” said Teare. “Decades of underfunding, understaffing, poor working conditions reveal how we need an overhaul that goes beyond bargaining,” she added. “This will be an election issue,” she concluded.

The NB Council of Nursing Home Unions represents 4400 workers in 51 nursing homes throughout NB.

 

Mount Allison Staff Cuts are Unfair and Unnecessary

Sackville – NB, June 26, 2020 – CUPE members at the Mount Allison University are denouncing the layoff waves initiated by the University’s Administration.

“They are making unnecessary and unfair cuts. Layoffs generate workload issues on the remaining staff and this in turn means less resources and help for students and faculty staff,” said Tasha Hawkes, president of CUPE Local 3433, which represents over 141 clerical, administrative support and technical support staff.

“Twenty-five members of our local have been laid-off,” said Hawkes. “Fourteen members have had their hours significantly reduced and over 11 employees have been put on full layoff.

This comes after 27 CUPE Local 2338 members were laid-off in April. Local 2338 represents custodial, maintenance, trades and grounds keeping staff.

“Students, other staff, including faculty and the broader community, suffer from such layoffs. Management should reverse their decision,” said Hawkes.

“Mount A’s administration has not shared with us adequate student enrolment projections for fall 2020,” said Lori MacKay, CUPE National Servicing Representative.

“We recognize the challenges of budgeting in these times. Mount A’s challenges are no different from any other universities or organizations.  Yet, as far as we know, Mount A is the only university in the province choosing to cut staff,” said Mackay.

Based on last year’s numbers, the projected savings done through these layoffs only represent 0.006% of last year’s 46 million-dollar budget.

“The added burden of implementing new policies, procedures and technical support for online learning should mean more hands on deck, not less,” added Hawkes.

“Until the University has true knowledge of actual enrolment numbers, their cuts create unnecessary and significant negative impact to the University’s workers and the community. As Mount A is Sackville’s largest employer, they should not ignore their social responsibility towards the community” concluded MacKay.

Pride Month Statement

Fifty-one years ago, the Stonewall riots happened. Two racialized transwomen, Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, led the riots which energized the fight for equality.  With Pride Month, CUPE NB celebrates the resilience and activism of our LGBTQ2+ members and allies.

Today, Black, Indigenous and racialized LGBTQ2+ activists are spearheading the most radical cross-movement struggles since Stonewall, around the globe. More than ever, we need a “Frontline Pride” in our province, putting forward the fight to dismantle the homophobic, transphobic, white supremacist, colonial and ableist systems.

“Intersectionality” is a word that must resonate in our province as much as “Solidarity”. For 2020, CUPE is using the Progress Pride Flag to highlight how racism, transphobia and homophobia operate together, and how activists at those intersections have led the resistance.

CUPE NB calls on employers and the provincial government to end conversion practises, build safer spaces, and support LGBTQ2+ grassroots groups dealing with Covid-19.

We cannot forget that Pride is political. Employers and governments try to co-opt Pride, but CUPE is part of the loud chorus for Queer Liberation, Not Rainbow Capitalism – a call that is made only more urgent by COVID-19.

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It’s Time NB Enacted Real Anti-Scab Laws

The ongoing Lockout at the Red Pine landfill in Allardville is revealing just how much worker’s rights have been eroded in New Brunswick.

NB labour laws were put in place with the promise of protecting and promoting employees’ collective voice in their workplaces. Now, after years of attacks through legislative, administrative and judicial ways, employees are left vulnerable to intense employer interference in bargaining.

In Allardville, the 23 locked-out workers have seen how their employer could drag on “bargaining” without ever intending to reach agreement with them. On top of this, workers have been subjected to a banana republic-like court injunction making the right to collective action virtually impossible. This is the same ridiculous injunction the Belledune Smelter workers got. Picketers must stay passive and let scabs – replacement workers – cross their picket lines as police give them protection. In Allardville, workers are told to stay quiet even as the employer brings in their own family members, friends and even students as scabs.

Unlike in Québec and BC, there is no law against the use of replacement workers in New Brunswick’s private sector. This means lockout can last indefinitely. When the playing field is so uneven, when employers have all the rights, this means trouble in the long run. Flawed and unjust laws only last so long until strife and social unrest boil up.

It’s time for a positive change in the labour relations in NB. It’s time we had rules that truly protected workers’ negotiating power in both public and private sectors.