Fredericton Tragedy – CUPE NB Statement

Fredericton – Last Friday, on August 10, 2018, the City of Fredericton was shaken by a terrible act of violence. In this difficult time for the community and our members, the Canadian Union of Public Employees would like to offer condolences and support to the families of the victims, the community and our members who are affected by the shooting.

“Our thoughts are with the families of the victims, the community and our members who are going through a very difficult time “, declared Brien Watson, Vice-President of CUPE NB.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees want to express gratitude toward our paramedics from Local 4848 as well as firefighters and police officers who went with courage into an extremely dangerous situation to help the victims, especially the two police officers who unfortunately made the ultimate sacrifice.

We also want to recognize the hard work of the members from CUPE 1709 (inside workers), CUPE 508 (outside workers), CUPE 1783 (transit workers), CUPE 3864 (professional technical group), CUPE 4848 (paramedics and dispatchers) and CUPE 908.01 (health care workers) who stepped up to keep the City of Fredericton running during and after this tragedy.

Their hard work will help Fredericton to begin the process of healing the wound left by this shooting.  “I have no doubt that the people of Fredericton will continue to feel confident and safe in their public spaces and events thanks to those workers,” said Watson.

Rapid Response Paramedic Units are Smoke and Mirrors

Fredericton – The New Brunswick Council of Hospital Unions (Local 1252) and Local 4848, which represents Paramedics and Dispatchers in New Brunswick, say the new pilot program is nothing more than a public relations stunt. 

“This program could make sense if there weren’t over 100 full-time paramedic positions currently vacant. This plan would be taking a fully staffed ambulance with the ability to respond and transport patients to a hospital and now placing it out of service” said Norma Robinson, president of Local 1252.

On July 25, 2018, New Brunswick’s Health Minister Benoit Bourque announced a Rapid Response Unit pilot program to “improve access to emergency medical care in rural areas”, starting this fall. The Unit will require opening about 15 new bilingual paramedic positions.

“A fully staffed ambulance requires two certified paramedics and to now take 15 bilingual paramedics out of an already strained system to staff non-transport units makes no sense for patient care in rural NB.  Will the Health Minister tell the public how many ambulances will have to stay idle because of this program?” questioned Robinson.

“I understand the elections are approaching, but no matter how they dress it up, government and Medavie should be dealing with the root causes of inadequate emergency response time. Recruitment and retention of paramedics is key,” said Gregory McConaghy, president of Local 4848.

CUPE firmly believes the government should not cut corners on rural services, nor should they attempt to bypass the requirement of having two paramedics per ambulance with the ability to transport patients as quickly as possible to a hospital.

“Rural residents calling the ambulance won’t get to the hospital any faster with this program, and that is simply unacceptable,” concluded McConaghy.

 

New Coalition Launches Campaign for Public Water in Moncton

The Council of Canadians, the Common Front for Social Justice, the Moncton and District Labour Council, the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, and CUPE New Brunswick have formed a coalition to convince Moncton City Council to bring back in-house operation of its drinking water treatment plant.

“Council needs to break the silence on this unique opportunity. With Veolia’s 20-year contract expiring in 2019, Moncton can finally bring water services back under public control. This will save money, ensure water quality and protect our environment,” said Darcy Barker, coordinator of the new coalition.

Recently, a City communications director confirmed that a public feasibility study should be in the works soon.

“Councillors have yet to say anything on where they stand or how they feel about this issue that affects all residents. I hope that they do go ahead with a public-option study, and that their comparative analysis be made public before a decision is made,” said Barker.

Members of the coalition presented their concerns to Moncton City Council on May 7th. However, Council gave no instruction to halt the staff-led process of looking for private contractors to operate and maintain Moncton’s drinking water. On June 18th, Council received a staff report that two companies – Veolia and Accione Agua/Groupe Hélios – have been shortlisted to compete for a new fifteen-year contract.
The coalition has launched a new website, www.MonctonH2O.ca, where residents can learn more about this issue and voice their concerns directly to City Councillors.

“We know residents care about this issue and we hope to give them the means to put enough pressure on Councillors to convince them to consider the public option”, said Pamela Ross, Chairperson of the Moncton Chapter of the Council of Canadians.

 

 

There’s no gag order

 

A recent report in the Telegraph Journal implied that there is currently a gag order placed on Paramedics and Dispatchers working for Ambulance NB. CUPE is setting the record straight: there was only a media blackout while the parties are in discussions on the application of one specific provision in the collective agreement.

“There is no gag order, there was a media blackout to deal with an issue within the collective agreement; this is a common practice with regards to contract interpretation issues. It’s a basic principle of respect that we do not negotiate in the media. Most public-sector unions follow this guideline, it’s common sense,” said CUPE Local 1252 Representative Ralph McBride.

Currently, there is a joint committee with the Employer and the local looking at issues of retention, recruitment, language training and testing, as well as possible bursary programs to attract students to this profession. The committee hopes to be able to supply a briefing to government officials by mid-September.

“CUPE has always shown by our words and actions that we believe in transparency when it comes to public services. Public awareness is a priority for us. We will continue to speak up on issues that impact New Brunswickers and the delivery of public services in our communities across New Brunswick”, said Brien Watson, 1st Vice-President of CUPE NB.

 

Photo credit: Acadie Nouvelle

A significant first step towards the right direction

Today, the New Brunswick Government announced its proposed regulations under the Employment Standards Act to provide workplace leave provisions for individuals who experience domestic, intimate partner or sexual violence.

“This announcement is great news, not just for CUPE members but for all workers in the province. CUPE Locals and our members have been pushing for workplace leave for survivors of gender-based violence for many years. I hope the proposed regulations will be upheld and come in force shortly after the consultation period,” said Daniel Légère, President of CUPE NB.

The GNB is proposing a leave of 10 days, of which the first five would be paid, that could be used intermittently or continuously, and up to 16 weeks that could be used in one continuous period. Though these provisions fall slightly short of CUPE’s recommendation, we applaud the province for recognizing the need for paid leave and flexibility around usage of days.

“Gender-based violence leave that is unpaid defeats the purpose of the leave to ensure financial security during an extremely disruptive and challenging time in a worker’s life”, said Légère. “Survivors also require flexibility to be able to take partial days or days spread out over time to address the many tasks they must carry out to ensure their safety and healing.”

On April 20th, CUPE NB submitted a brief to the Government of New Brunswick where we made the three following recommendations:

  • 10 days of paid leave, followed by 17 weeks of unpaid leave;
  • The employers’ right to request proof or verification should be limited;
  • There should be a requirement to maintain the confidentiality of survivors taking leave

“We applaud the government for taking this significant first step with regards to paid leave. It’s a bold progressive move by government that has been a long time coming ‘’said Légère.

Privatization of Hospital Food, Cleaning and Portering Services Prevented in New Brunswick

This Wednesday afternoon, the provincial government has announced it would not proceed with the Sodexo takeover of Food, Environmental and Patient Portering Services in New Brunswick Hospitals.

Norma Robinson, President of CUPE Local 1252, sits next to Benoît Bourque, NB Health Minister, during the announcement.

“After petitions, rallies, meetings and citizen advocacy, our efforts to halt privatization has been successful,” said Norma Robinson, President of Local 1252, the New Brunswick Council of Hospital Unions.

Over 280 jobs in hospitals would have been be eliminated if the government had given the green light to Sodexo.

“I am quite pleased the government has listened: you can’t cut your way to prosperity. I am proud to see how members, citizens, the Vitalité Health Network, health professionals, economists and even farmers came out in support of public healthcare, rather than private interests,” said Daniel Légère, CUPE NB president.

In December of 2017, a joint labour-management Steering committee launched the Task Force on Food, Environmental and Portering Services. The mandate of the Task Force was to identify the current gaps and opportunities with respect to the provision of food, environmental and portering service within our Regional Health Authorities.

“The Task force did its job and concluded that privatization was not the solution. The new Health Minister, Benoit Bourque, did listen to the workers’ concerns on Sodexo,” said Robinson.

“Our work is not done. There remains a significant amount of work to be done as we move forward to make improvements to our public healthcare system, but today we celebrate this victory,” concluded Norma Robinson.

 

 

CUPE NB Statement on National Paramedic Week

Dear Members of CUPE New Brunswick,

This week, we celebrate National Paramedic Week to recognize the hard work of CUPE Local 4848 paramedics and dispatchers.

While the overwhelming majority of citizens appreciate the dedication and professionalism of our first responders, they often forget the hidden consequences of being on the front lines. Overwork, burnout, trauma, and yes, suicide, remains all too frequent in your line of work. But this can – and must – change.

CUPE NB stands by the century-old union saying: “we mourn our dead, but we fight like hell for the living”. This is why we have our union solidarity, with our brotherhood and sisterhood: collectively we take on the problems that hurt so many individuals.

As president of CUPE NB, I want to reaffirm our appreciation of the work delivered by those who are there for our communities, our vulnerable, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

In Solidarity,

Daniel Légère
CUPE NB President

Nursing Home Workers Protest NBANH’s Concession Demands

This Thursday, May 10, more than 200 CUPE members protested in front of the Delta Hotel in downtown Fredericton where the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes (NBANH) were holding their Annual General Meeting.

The Council of New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions (NBCNHU), which represents more than 4000 CUPE members across New Brunswick, is protesting the inflexibility of the NBANH and is asking them to withdraw their demands for concessions in the collective agreement negociations.

“The employer insists on concessions and for us there, is no question of negotiating backwards. As long as they do not remove these concessions, we will continue to increase the pressure,” said Wayne Brown, president of the NBCNHU.

The conciliation is scheduled for the end of the month. Despite NBCNHU’s April 26 demonstration, the employer’s refusal to move forward with the negotiations is a concern to union members that conciliation will not be of much use.

“We hope that after this second mobilization, the employers will hear the workers. Negotiations can move forward if they withdraw their demands for concessions. If they don’t want to hear anything, they’re forcing us to strike,” says Wayne Brown, president of NBCNHU.

The NBCNHU represents more than 4000 members working in 45 government funded nursing homes throughout New Brunswick. They represent resident attendants, Licensed Practical Nurses, but also maintenance, housekeeping, activity, dietary, laundry and clerical staff.

 

Moncton Water Belongs To Public

Twenty years ago this month, the City of Moncton signed a deal with a for-profit corporation to build, finance and operate our new drinking water treatment plant. No-one disputes that there was an urgent need to improve our city’s water quality. Funding from federal and provincial sources wasn’t flowing, so Council entered into a complex arrangement that privatized the day-to-day operations of our drinking water.

This public-private partnership (P3) deal was struck with Veolia, a French multinational corporation involved in water privatization around the globe. The deal cost at least $8.5 million more than a public project in expensive private borrowing costs alone.

Times have changed.

Today, the plant is built and paid for, and we all enjoy high-quality water. The P3 contract with Veolia expires in December 2019. This gives Moncton the opportunity to take back control and daily operation of this vital public service.

Instead of seizing the opportunity, the City is going down the same expensive path of privatized operation. Earlier this month, the City started the process of looking for corporations to bid on a contract to run and maintain our drinking water treatment plant for the next 15 years. The “Request for Qualifications” closes this Friday, on May 4th, and is the first step in signing a new contract with a for-profit operator. But it’s not too late to change direction.

We strongly urge the City to develop a plan to bring operations and maintenance in house, and to have a full public debate about the costs and consequences of continuing to contract out.

City council must carefully study a public option and the City must develop a fully costed, unbiased comparison of in-house and privatized operation and maintenance costs. Moncton citizens should have a right to see all options, including one that can ensure that the City’s hands aren’t tied by a long-term contract with a for-profit corporation like Veolia. Public operation means more flexibility and control, this will let the City build its internal expertise.

Moncton residents have already paid for the water treatment plant and it belongs to the City. Let’s take the next step and operate the plant ourselves. The 2016 Columbia Institute study Back in House looks at municipalities in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia that have ended for-profit water or wastewater operation contracts. In all cases, cost savings were a main factor, and one municipality ensured a seamless transition by hiring the existing employees onto city staff.

Based on the experience of other communities in Canada and around the world, bringing our water services into the City’s operations will save money and enhance water quality. The vast majority of water and wastewater systems in Canada are fully public. Going “in house” is also one of the best ways to help our local economy. Residents and water consumers in the private and public sector all have an interest in having predictable and affordable water rates.

In the early 2000s, Moncton residents successfully campaigned to stop privatization of our entire water delivery system. This saved the City (and all residents) money and ensured public control of this critical infrastructure. More recently, in 2015, the Greater Moncton Wastewater Commission rejected a P3 to upgrade our wastewater treatment plant, opting to keep sewage treatment fully public.

The tri-community cooperation agreement between Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe for water supply means all three communities could reap the benefits of a 100% publicly controlled and operated facility. It’s the best way to ensure quality, real cost savings and lower rates.

Water is an essential public service and a fundamental human right. There’s no room for profit in delivering this service. We hope Mayor Arnold and city councilors slow down and do their due diligence, instead of repeating the same mistakes of past council. The water plant serves us well. We own it, now let’s run it too.

-Leo Melanson

Leo Melanson is president of CUPE Local 51, which represents the City of Moncton’s outside workers

 

 

 

Proposed Health and Safety Regulations is Good News

Fredericton – On April 28th, the Day of Mourning, the New Brunswick Government announced its proposed regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, to deal with workplace violence and harassment.

“This announcement is great news, not just for CUPE members but for all workers in the province. CUPE Locals and our members have been pushing for updated language in Health and Safety for many years. I hope the proposed regulations will be in force soon,” said Daniel Légère, President of CUPE NB.

The proposed regulatory changes are the product of a recently created Government-Labour Steering Committee. They clearly define the types of violence and harassment, have provisions on training and puts obligations on employers to enforce a relevant code of practice.

“We hope that everyone – workers and employers – understand how we need to do better in terms of training and internal policies to make our workplaces better,” said Légère.