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Major staffing crisis in nursing homes requires immediate action

Fredericton, September 27, 2021 – The NB Council of Nursing Home Unions (NBCNHU), representing more than 4,600 nursing home workers in our province, is demanding immediate action from Premier Higgs to solve the understaffing crisis in long-term care. The NBCNHU held an online press conference to demand Premier Higgs put in place a 4$ wage increase for all CUPE classifications in long-term care homes.

“Residents are not getting the minimum care hours guaranteed under the Nursing Homes Act because of the critical lack of staff” denounced Sharon Teare, President of the NBCNHU. “It’s time the Premier made some bold moves to fix the crisis and got ahead of the curve,” said Teare.

In August 2021, The Federal government promised to invest $9 billion to address the dangerous shortfalls in Canada’s long-term-care sector that were exposed by the pandemic. This includes a 25$ per-hour minimum wage for personal support workers (PSWs) across Canada. On average, CUPE nursing home workers in New Brunswick earn 21$ per hour, which is among the lowest wages in this sector in the country.

“The Federal government will pitch in to do its part to correct the injustices, what is Higgs waiting for,” asked Teare. “We say it is about time Higgs did his part. Québec, Ontario, and many other provinces improved wages for long-term-care workers to fix their recruitment and retention crisis,” she added.

Compared to other Canadian provinces, New Brunswick still is in the bottom when it comes to investing in the front lines during this pandemic.

“Last week, the members in Edmundston sounded the alarm on residents getting only 1.8 hours of daily hands-on care because of understaffing. This week, we got similar reports coming from Bathurst, Saint John, Woodstock, and in so many other places.  Seniors are going without baths for whole weeks, they stay in bed all day and are even dying alone, because of serious short staffing. It’s getting worse as months go by,” said Teare.

During the conference, the NBCNHU presented a “Letter of Agreement,” prepared and signed so that the Premier can immediately put in place a 4$ increase for nursing home workers. “We just need his signature on this sheet, which would then be added to the NBCNHU collective agreement. This would make sense, as it brings workers to the 25$ an hour adjustment which is coming our way for 2021-2022,” said Teare.[1]

The NBCNHU ended its conference by explaining how receiving federal funds requires cooperation from the provincial government. “Higgs should not waste any more time to improve the situation of workers and wait to be the last one to act, as he did on childcare funding,” added Teare. “The crisis is real, but the money is there. All we need is political will from Fredericton. Working families and our most vulnerable need to be prioritized” concluded Teare.

[1] See the Federal Liberal Party Media Release – August 19, 2021, and the related Fiscal and costing plan:


Four More Locals Take Strong Strike Votes

September 22, 2021CUPE NB and the leaders of the CUPE Centralized Bargaining Team held an online press conference today to announce the results of four more locals having completed strike votes. Out of the 10 provincial locals conducting strike votes, seven CUPE locals have now completed their votes.

“With this strong mandate, front-line workers are saying to Premier Higgs to listen carefully. New Brunswick workers are the least paid public sector workers in Canada. They want and deserve a fair deal now,” said Stephen Drost, President of CUPE NB.

The results of locals 1251, 1253, 1418, and 2745 were counted Monday. They follow the same patterns established last week by locals 1840, 1866, and 5017 who gave strong strike mandates.

“Despite the difficulties created by the pandemic, close to 9,400 CUPE members have already cast a ballot in this vote. Members are clear. It’s time to fix our public services and the people who deliver them. The best place to start doing so is at the bargaining table through fair wages,” said Drost.

CUPE Locals Contract Expiry Date YES % vote Turnout
1251 – NB institutional services and care June 2017 98% 774 voted
1418 – Rehabilitation, therapy and RCPO August 2017 92% 1,106 voted
1253 – NB school district unions March 2019 97% 2,747 voted
2745 – NB educational support staff February 2018 91% 4,479 voted

CUPE Local 1252, which represents close to 11,000 Healthcare workers, begins their vote tomorrow, September 23rd, until the 25th. Most votes will be conducted just outside their workplaces. CUPE Local 1190 and 5017 which represent more than 1,800 workers together, will post voting dates soon.


Local 1840, 1866 and 5017 Take Strong Strike Votes

Moncton, September 14, 2021 – CUPE NB and the leaders of the CUPE Centralized Bargaining Team held a press conference today to announce the results of the first completed strike votes. Out of the 10 provincial locals conducting strike votes, three CUPE locals concluded their votes.

“Those CUPE members are giving a snapshot of what’s to come. They are sending a strong message to the government with a strong, strong strike vote,” said Stephen Drost, President of CUPE NB.

The results by region are as follows:

  • Local 1840 (NB Court Stenographers) – 96% in favour of a strike, 96% turnout out of 73 members
  • Local 1866 (WorkSafe NB) – 83% in favour of a strike. 88% participation out of 138 members
  • Local 5017 (NB Community Colleges) – 93 % in favour of a strike. 100% participation out of 89 members.

Local 5017 vote count

Local 1840 vote count

Local 1866 vote count

“These members are sending a strong message, and it’s foreshadowing what is to come. It is also a scathing review of the government’s inability to recognize front-line workers. Workers want a fair deal, not empty promises and propaganda in the papers,” said Drost.

“Front-Line workers have endured so much with so little support, and it’s clear that they are ready to strike if needed so the government takes them seriously. Decades of little to no wage increases, along with a major recruitment and retention crisis, can and must be dealt with at the bargaining table through fair wages,” said Stephen Drost.

These 3 locals had received proper employer-provided lists to conduct a proper vote respecting the PSLRA provisions.

Local 1252 (Healthcare) and Local 5026 (CCNB) will conduct their votes later in September. Local 1252 is taking their vote on the 23, 24, and 25 of September.

Critical shortage of staff in Edmundston Nursing Home

Edmundston, September 14, 2021 – The union representing workers at Les Résidences Jodin nursing home in Edmundston is sounding the alarm on the significant understaffing in their workplace. Local 5108, which represents more than 225 workers at the home, is calling for an independent investigation into the numerous contraventions of the Nursing Homes Act regarding the minimum number of hours of daily care to be provided to residents. EXCLUSIF - Moments difficiles aux Résidences Jodin

“Day after day, the management of Les Résidences Jodin is seriously failing to provide the 2.89 hours of direct daily care for each resident,” said Chantal Montreuil, president of Local 5108 and a care attendant for 20 years. “We are running so short that the average direct care hours per resident is closer to 1.8 hours per day. This is unacceptable and shameful,” she said.

“Last weekend, there were only two workers for every thirty residents. This is unheard of. Normally, it takes at least five workers to provide the bare minimum,” says Jason St. Onge, a care attendant and Vice-President of Local 5108.

The local is asking that the investigation also looks at the work of the Department of Social Development inspectors, who are supposed to be looking at counting the time seniors are being cared for. “In our opinion, the home’s regular inspector, Louis Lévesque, is not thorough enough. We have never seen him make a surprise visit. Each time he visits – what a coincidence! – the management hides the usual lack of staff by bringing in more staff on the day of his visit,” says Chantal Montreuil. “Why doesn’t the inspector compile the schedules of the employees over the last few months to show the minister what is really happening here?”

“Because of the lack of staff, their one shower a week is often put aside, they are only helped out of bed once a day, they eat cold food. The wait for care is much longer than before,” says Sharon Teare, President of the NB Council of Nursing Home Unions.

“The night staff often work alone for 30 residents and have to wait for help from another staff member who is assigned to another home to help the single staff member with the care. Normally, they are expected to have two employees for every 30 residents at night,” confirmed Jason St. Onge. “The Department should intervene, and quickly, ” he added.

“The Department must intervene because staff shortages are rampant throughout the province and it is getting worse as months go by,” concluded Sharon Teare, President of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions.

Premier insist on concessions instead of offering fair wages

Fredericton, September 3rd, 2021 Friday Morning, the CUPE Centralized Bargaining Team in New Brunswick held a press conference to denounce the relentless concession demands of the Premier through the NB Treasury Board in centralized bargaining sessions.

At 11:30 today, the Government left the bargaining table, having refused to respond to CUPE’s last pass on Thursday night. “They were not interested in bargaining unless the union accepted concessions,” said CUPE NB President Stephen Drost.

“No real movement happened on a general economic increase for workers,” said

Drost. “The Premier said bargaining is “give and take,” but all he wants at the table is to take, take and take. He never moved from his initial offer, as the moves he made were coupled with significant concessions demands instead of talking about a general wage increase.”

The CUPE Centralized Bargaining Team, along with bargaining team members of CUPE Locals in Part 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the NB public service.

During the conference, leaders of the CUPE Centralized Bargaining team shared their experience of this unique centralized bargaining.

“We were ready to move on our initial general economic wage proposal if the employer was ready to move on theirs, but they clearly were not respectful when they presented the very same wage restraint mandate demanded at every bargaining table years ago. Other public sector workers already massively rejected a similar demand. Why would the Premier think our members would accept a bad deal?” said Norma Robinson, President of CUPE Local 1252, the NB Council of Healthcare Unions.

“We told the negotiators just how the members of our locals are frustrated and angry by the stalling and concessions demanded by the Premier’s negotiators,” said Iris Lloyd, President of CUPE Local 1253, representing school district custodians, trade workers and school bus drivers.

“I am so disappointed to see how the premier preferred to waste an amazing opportunity to fix – at one centralized table – the major recruitment and retention issues in public service through a fair general economic increase for workers,” said Steve Drost.

Province-wide strike votes will begin on Tuesday, September 7th. Votes in the healthcare sector and francophone community colleges will be held later in the month.

“The door is never closed if Higgs wants to improve real wages for workers through a general economic increase, not concessions,” concluded Drost.

Bargaining Summit – Aug. 27

On Friday, August 27, 2021, starting at 9 am, CUPE NB is holding a day-long Bargaining Summit in Fredericton, with over 100 CUPE bargaining team members in New Brunswick present.

While over 100 members of CUPE Bargaining teams of Part 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the NB public service are meeting in a large outdoor conference tent. located behind the Crowne Plaza Lord Beaverbrook Hotel in Fredericton.

Members and the public can watch the event online from the live feed through this page:

Among guest speakers present are:

  • CUPE NB President Stephen Drost
  • CUPE National President Mark Hancock and CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury
  • Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario President
  • Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) President Bea Bruske
  • NB Federation of Labour (NBFL) President Daniel Légère

The summit is being held as more than 22,000 CUPE members in NB are currently without a collective agreement and are preparing for a province-wide strike vote in early September if no fair deal is reached with Government.

Walk to thank front-line workers

August 28, 2021 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am

We invite you to a CUPE NB-organized community walk happening near you, throughout New Brunswick. We walk to recognize and give thanks to all front-line essential workers, who provided important public services to the citizens of New Brunswick during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bring your family and friends and let’s give these workers the recognition and thanks they truly deserve.
Share far and wide the Facebook event.
Saint John – 57 Lansdowne Ave (in front of Shoppers)
Moncton – NBCC 1234 Mountain Rd.
Fredericton – Parking lot in front of 551 King St.
Edmundston – Centre Brunswick, 180 Boul. Hébert.
Saint-Quentin – Hôpital régional, 21 Rue Canada
Campbellton – Civic Center, 44 Salmon Blvd, Campbellton
Bathurst – Bathurst High School parking lot, 640 King Ave.
Tracadie – L’École La Source au 906 Rue Louis G. Daigle
Perth-Andover – Southern Victoria High School, 13 School St.
Woodstock – Townsview School, 122 Lewis P. Fisher Ave.
Saint Stephen – Charlotte Mall, 210 King St.
Sussex – Parking lot, 8 Leonard Dr.
Miramichi – Kinsmen Centre, 100 Newcastle Blvd.

50 days left to settle fair deals with CUPE members

CUPE NB, representing more than 28,000 workers in New Brunswick, held a press conference on July 19 to announce that Premier Blaine Higgs has yet to take any meaningful action or necessary steps to settle collective agreements with over 22,000 CUPE members.

“50 days have passed since notice was given to the Premier to fix the labour crisis that he and his MLAs created. Sadly, Higgs is still backing these workers into a corner. If nothing is done within the next 50 days to address the labour crisis in a fair and respectful way, a province-wide strike vote will be held,” said Stephen Drost, CUPE NB President.

“CUPE’s Maritime Regional Director Sandy Harding and I met with Premier Higgs in July.  He would not commit to resolving the recruitment and retention crisis in public services, nor recognize that fair wages or compensation is part of the solution,” said Drost. “We were professional, respectful, polite, and made it very clear to him. We said workers are not being greedy or irresponsible, they worked through the pandemic and most have not had a fair wage increase in many years. We advised Higgs that zeroes are not acceptable; front-line heroes deserve much better,” added Drost.

Last week, the 10,500 members of CUPE Local 1252 tried to get a fair deal through conciliation. “It was clear the province’s negotiators were not interested in anything else but a wage freeze. Conciliation is done, a deadlock is to be declared in the coming days,” added Drost.

Higgs has until Labour Day to resolve the unsettled contracts and negotiate fair wages for the 22,000 public sector CUPE members stuck in bargaining. Over 19,000 public sector CUPE members will be in a deadlock in the immediate future or within days and close to another 2800 may soon be joining them.

Attending the press conference were more than 215 participants, many of which are rank and file members, local leaders and CUPE leaders from other provinces. Fred Hahn,  President of CUPE Ontario, delivered a strong heartfelt message of support to the NB membership.

Fred Hahn – CUPE Ontario Division President

“PEI and Nova Scotia’s governments were able to settle contracts with workers without anybody going on strike. Higgs should do the right and honourable thing and treat our public sector workers with the same regard and respect. It is extremely unfortunate that this Premier and his MLAs are forcing a strike on these workers and the citizens of New Brunswick,” concluded Drost.


Higgs has 100 Days to settle a fair deal with CUPE members

CUPE NB, representing over 28,000 workers in New Brunswick, held a press conference to announce its ultimatum to NB Premier Blaine Higgs. View the full conference here.

“Starting Sunday, May 30th, Premier Higgs has one hundred (100) days to settle collective agreements for all the CUPE locals who have been waiting long enough for a fair deal,” said CUPE NB President Stephen Drost.

Higgs has until Labour Day in September to fix recruitment and retention issues and bring fair wages to the 21,860 CUPE members in bargaining – over 8,580 of which are in a deadlock and more than 13,280 who are headed for conciliation in the next 50 days.

“If Higgs refuses to act in a tangible manner, once the 100 days are passed, CUPE members will have to mount a province-wide coordinated action,” added Drost.

“This ultimatum is the most responsible way to get this government to act. By September, most residents will already be vaccinated. One hundred days is more than generous when you consider how most workers have been waiting for years and years to get fair deals,” said Drost.

During the press conference, CUPE Local 1840 – representing NB Court Stenographers – also announced it had just filed a request to the NB Labour and Employment Board to recognize a deadlock in bargaining. Government has refused to offer Court Stenographers a fair deal since 2016.

Before Christmas, in the middle of the second COVID-19 wave, Premier Blaine Higgs promised “Zeroes for our Heroes.” All NB public sector workers would be mandated a wage freeze followed by three years of one percent increases. Half a year later, Higgs has not yet altered his collision course with the public sector: “He has not acted in any way to fix the recruitment and retention crisis in major sectors. Higgs is playing a dangerous game of poker, thinking essential workers who fought off COVID-19 will simply fold under pressure, rather than unite and demand respect,” concluded Drost.



CUPE 1252 Exposes the depth of the Recruitment and Retention Crisis in Healthcare

Fredericton, NB – The NB Council of Hospital Unions (CUPE Local 1252) – representing close to 10,000 healthcare workers in New Brunswick, held a press conference to expose the severity of the recruitment and retention crisis in their field.

CUPE 1252 has knowledge of excessive holes and gaps in all classifications: “We estimate there is a shortage of 200 Licenced Practical Nurses (LPNS) in NB hospitals. There are a hundred (100) vacant paramedic positions, there are gaps in Environmental Services (EVS), medical device reprocessing, maintenance, clerical and phlebotomy, to mention a few,” said Norma Robinson.

Local 1252’s conference came on the heels of an announcement by the NB Nurses Union, who revealed that there is a shortage of approximately 700 nurses provincially.

“Too often, we only hear about one or two classifications, but let’s be clear, there are serious shortages in all classifications,” said Robinson. “At the root of this are low wages and management’s over-reliance on casual labour. Too few full-time positions are posted for the sheer quantity of work to be done,” she added.

The union also noted an alarming trend where Health Networks’ recruitment efforts are under-prioritized in urban centres: “When there are staff shortages, rural hospitals are the first to suffer and the last to receive help,” said Robinson.

“We raised these issues with Premier Higgs and Minister Shephard on several occasions, we’ve asked to be part of the discussions to provide a clear picture of what is truly happening. Sadly, to date, there has been no movement, no discussions, and no invitations to meet from their part,” she added.

CUPE 1252 calls on Premier Higgs, Minister Shephard and the Regional Health Authorities to come forward to begin the discussions for improvement to the healthcare system in NB.  “Healthcare in NB is at a critical state with cracks in the system, if something is not done now healthcare will crumble,” concluded Robinson.

CUPE Local 1252 represents frontline healthcare workers such as paramedics, LPN’s, patient care attendants, support staff working in environmental services, dietary, maintenance & trades, clerical, sterilization, pharmacy staff, phlebotomists and many more.