Conciliator Agrees: Provincial Labourers Deserve Real Wage Increases

Fredericton, NB – September 19
CUPE Local 1190 held a press conference to invite the provincial government to accept the recommendations of a Conciliation Board in the ongoing round of contract talks.

“We have gone around the province to consult with our members, and they accept these recommendations. It is not everything we asked for, but it is reasonable, and the province should have no problem with it,” said Brent Wiggins, President of CUPE Local 1190. “We invite the employer to recognize this neutral third-party report and follow its recommendations,” he added.

The Union and Government have been bargaining since 2017. Both parties presented their arguments before a Conciliation Board appointed by the NB Labour and Employment Board. The Board chair, Mr. Bladon, recognized in his report that several monetary adjustments and contract language changes should be made, such as:

  • 12% wage increase over 4 years (3% per year);
  • Standardized treatment of casuals in the bargaining unit;
  • Boot allowance increase to $175 and tool allowance increase to $350; &
  • Respect of seniority for job postings

The Government has proposed a wage package of about 0.75%/year, plus up to an additional 1% if the Union agreed to “improvement benchmarks” identified by the employer – such as reducing the number of sick days used by employees. The Board chastised the Government’s wage proposal as “unrealistic” and went as far as saying it “eroded the trust” between the Union and the employer.

“Management should listen: Local 1190 members have not had real wage increases in years, and that must change,” said Wiggins.

To this date, the employer has yet to show any willingness to consider the report. “I hope the Government acts instead of reacts and stalls. Workers have waited long enough,” concluded Wiggins.

 

CUPE Local 1190 represents over 1700 general labour and trades workers throughout New Brunswick, in over 8 Departments, including provincial parks and highway workers.

Is Bathurst Using The Lockout To Hide Mismanagement?

This Thursday September 5, CUPE Local 1282 held a press conference to denounce the ongoing lockout of 22 administrative workers imposed by the City of Bathurst.

“We are now at week 7 of the lockout. It appears that the City and Council are using this crisis to hide their mismanagement,” said Guy DeSilva, President of CUPE local 1282.

In July 2019, Bathurst Mayor, Paolo Fongemie, stated that the lockout was in the interest of citizens in order to “prevent tax increases” and fight the deficit.

In less than two weeks of lockout, the City could have met the workers’ wage demands without generating any new costs.  After 6 full weeks, the City has already denied multiple times that amount (over $174,000 in payroll and benefits) to its own workers.

“Offering inside workers cost of living-plus wages would in no way generate tax increases for Bathurst. Saying otherwise does not make any sense. Is this simply a cover up from basic mismanagement?,” wonders DeSilva.

If the deficit is the problem, CUPE Local 1282 demands clear answers to these questions :

  • Why did the Council vote itself a sizeable wage increase?
  • Why did the Mayor approve 8 costly new management positions?
  • Why did The Mayor also approve a 2.5% wage increase for upper management?
  • Why does Bathurst now have close to double the number of management positions than the comparably sized city of Miramichi?

 

“Using a lockout to artificially solve a deficit is misleading for citizens, it disrupts the delivery of front-line services to the public and it is disrespectful towards city workers. It is a clear demonstration of bad priority setting, and that is never a winning strategy in the long run, ” concluded Guy Desilva.

City of Bathurst Inside Workers Stand United for Fair Wages

Bathurst– After a brief return to the bargaining table earlier this week, the City of Bathurst presented its full and final offer to CUPE Local 1282 members.

The bargaining team presented the employer’s offer to its members, who voted by secret ballot for or against the employer’s offer. Members overwhelmingly rejected (90%) the employer’s offer.

“The key issue here is real wage increases.  Workers deserve fair adjustments that improve, not worsen, their real wages,” says Guy Desilva, president of CUPE Local 1282.

CUPE found that between 2018 and 2019, the number of managers in the City of Bathurst increased from 27 to 35. “Meanwhile, city council gave themselves salary increases,” DeSilva adds.

“Our members are united, and this sends a strong message to the employer. Bathurst has the capacity to pay fairly its front-line employees. It’s a matter of prioritizing front line workers over management,” said Desilva.

Local 1282 represents 22 administrative employees in the City of Bathurst. Their employer has been locked out since July 25th.

Bathurst City Council Didn’t vote on the Lockout

Bathurst – It has come to our attention from source in City Hall that the mayor of the City of Bathurst made the decision to lockout its workers, members of CUPE Local 1282, without a motion or a vote from City Council.  This means that the City councillors didn’t have the chance to ask questions or to voice concerns with the lockout that is affecting 22 inside workers who provide important public services to the residents of Bathurst.

“We ask City Councillors to call a special meeting right away to discuss and vote on the matter of this lockout and the impact on the citizens of Bathurst. Our hope is that Council will choose good labour relations and end the lockout by allowing workers to return to work on Monday and return to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair contract,” said Guy DeSilva, president of CUPE Local 1282

The City of Bathurst imposes a lockout on members of CUPE Local 1282

Bathurst– Following a deadlock in negotiations, the City of Bathurst gave 24 hours’ notice to lockout members of CUPE Local 1282.  These employees represent 14 classifications including secretaries, IT support technicians, payroll and accounts clerks, operations analysts, purchasing agents and supervisors and many other positions essential to the city’s operations.

As of Thursday, members of this Local will be prohibited from entering the workplace and, as a result, will no longer be paid. The purpose of this manoeuvre by the employer is to use the financial precariousness to force them to accept an unsatisfactory offer which they have already opposed.

“We find it deplorable that the employer is willing to use such dishonest manoeuvres to achieve its goals. We have always cooperated with him in the past because he always made reasonable offers during negotiations.  We simply want to return to the bargaining table to reach a reasonable compromise as before,” said Guy DeSilva, President of CUPE Local 1282.

The City of Bathurst wanted to impose a vote on the members on its final offer by threatening them with a lockout if they refused to put the offer to a vote.

“When we received the threat, we asked our members if they wanted to vote on the final offer and they made it clear to us that they opposed it by massively refusing to hold the vote. We will stand up against these bad faith tactics and I know that all CUPE members are behind us,” concluded DeSilva.

Justice Deware maintains the Labour and Employment Board decision

Justice DeWare rendered her decision on the judicial review of the New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Moncton. The Court validated the Commission’s conclusion by ruling that the Essential Services in Nursing Homes Act is unconstitutional.

Consequently, it gives the government six months to amend this legislation to meet the requirements of Section 2 d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of association. For the time being, the interdiction to strike within a legal framework is maintained for workers in nursing homes.

“I am pleased to see that Justice DeWare has reiterated the Commission’s judgment. However, the recruitment and retention crisis in nursing homes cannot wait 6 months. That is why we are asking the government to recall the Legislature immediately to amend the law in accordance with the expectations of the two tribunals that have ruled on the matter,” said Sharon Teare, President of the NB Council of Nursing Home Unions.

To resolve the conflict, CUPE suggested using binding arbitration which most MLAs voted in favour. However, the government persists on binding arbitration with conditions and that breaks the very principle of this procedure, which must remain free and independent.

“We are asking the government to respect the will of workers and MLAs by initiating this process now so that we can finally resolve the crisis in our nursing homes,” said Sharon Teare.

Educational Assistants Condemn Education Department Funding Shortfalls

Fredericton – CUPE Local 2745, which represents over 4800 education workers in NB, including all school educational assistants, denounces the Department of Education’s mismanagement and insufficient funding issues plaguing the Anglophone-East (AE) and Anglophone West (AW) districts.

Last week, the AE district superintendent Gregg Ingersoll revealed to media how both districts lacked funds to hire EAs.  His district had a 2-million-dollar funding shortfall to hire 60 EA for next year.

“This has to be fixed immediately by the government and top bureaucrats, as it could have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable students come September,” warned Theresa McAllister, President of CUPE Local 2745.

The Union notes this will be the second year in a row where funding for EA positions falls short.

CUPE questions whether the government is using this funding issue as a lever for the contract-talk showdown on the horizon between Local 2745 and the Department of Education.

“We are already going in conciliation in July because talks are not going well. The government refuses to be reasonable in bargaining. I certainly hope they get their act together and bring a fair deal to the table before the school year begins,” said McAllister.

Educational Assistants expect the Education Minister Dominic Cardy to guarantee adequate resources for Districts, so children and workers who make inclusion possible are not left behind.  “Cardy said he believed in inclusion. We hope he stays true to his word,” concluded McAllister.

Municipal Arbitrations Work – Don’t Mess It Up

Fredericton, June 21 2019 – This Friday, CUPE’s NB Committee of Municipal Employees held a press conference to voice its opposition to “Ability to Pay” legislation for NB municipalities.

 

Recently, the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, a right-wing think tank, and some conservative municipal politicians in Saint John and Miramichi have been lobbying provincial government to enact legislation similar to Ontario’s rejected 2012 Conservative Members’ Bill 121, the “Ability to Pay” bill.

 

The bill aimed to restrain arbitrators’ discretion and freedom on issuing wage adjustments for municipal workers such as police and firefighters.

 

Municipal employers requested to meet with CUPE locals to discuss possible changes to binding arbitration. However, most employers mentioned during meetings this was a Saint John issue only and that they did not have a particular opinion with the current process.

 

“The Municipal committee believes the current process works. Arbitrators are qualified professionals that use many factors in coming to their decisions. They are neutral, objective, accountable and transparent.  Decisions are based on rooted legal principles. The model does not need fixing as it works,” said Kevin Smallwood, president of the NB Committee of Municipal employees.

 

Binding arbitration is already a restrictive dispute resolution mechanism, which is the alternative agreed upon by all parties versus the right to strike. “Putting even more restrictions on bargaining rights unreasonably tips the balance in favour of employers,” said Marc Doiron, CUPE Firefighter and Municipal Committee representative.

“This reminds me of the situation Nursing Home workers are fighting at the moment: conservative governments are trying to impose restrictions on arbitrators instead of permitting necessary wage adjustment for people,” said Smallwood.

 

With significant – and growing – responsibility for public infrastructure and services, municipalities need access to fair and sustainable revenue sources from Provincial and Federal Government, rather than anti-worker laws.

NB Auditor General Validates CUPE 1190’s Position: Outsourcing Costs More

Tuesday, June 11th, Kim MacPherson, the NB Auditor General released Volume 1 of her annual report. In this report, she condemns the outsourcing of provincial work such as highway maintenance and construction work in the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DTI).

“For years and years, CUPE 1190 has said to DTI managers and MLAs of all stripes that outsourcing was a bad strategy for the province. Public sector workers, our members, can do it better and cheaper,” said Brent Wiggins, President of CUPE 1190.

Back in March 2016, CUPE 1190 held a press conference asking for an in-depth investigation of outsourcing in the Department. Contracts were being awarded to companies despite clear evidence public sector workers did it better and cheaper. Outsourcing for the winter program and the summer maintenance were both denounced at the time.

MacPherson found decisions to outsource were ideological and were made for « […] economic development reasons to support the private sector. This led programs to be knowingly outsourced at a higher cost ».

“Conservatives and Liberals are both to blame in this report, as this practice has been going on for too long in DTI. I hope Premier Higgs will bring work back in-house, make everything transparent rather than try to score political points,” said Wiggins.
“This is what happens when you think of public services as a burden rather than an asset. Our roads become more dangerous, workers lose good jobs, lives are put at risk, and everybody except companies and their political friends end up footing the bill,” said Wiggins.

Workers Want to Halt Murray Beach Provincial Park Privatization

Murray Corner –  Local community leaders and unionized park workers are rallying together to denounce the upcoming privatization of Murray Beach Provincial Park.

Robert Gauvin, Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture, has already quietly begun the process to turn the operation of Murray Beach Provincial Park over to the private sector in 2020.

“After the closures of visitor information centres in Cape Jourimain and Aulac, selling off Murray Beach Park is the worst idea the Minister of Tourism could have for South-East New Brunswick. Gauvin is saying to vacationers: “Drive off to PEI or Nova Scotia, nothing to see here,” said Wiggins.

CUPE Local 1190 is calling on the government to change its decision to privatize the Park and save the much-needed Park jobs.

“The Minister must back off from selling this provincial jewel, which needs investments and proper promotion, not privatization,” said Brent Wiggins, President of CUPE Local 1190, representing park workers.

CUPE Local 1190 is also wondering why the community and the workers were not even consulted on this important decision.

“Employment in the area is already hurting. Government needs to realize the park is a great public asset for tourism and our local economy. Instead of looking to make a fast buck, Gauvin should see long term, keep the Park and put it front and centre of a regional revitalization plan,” added Wiggins.

CUPE Local 1190 represents over 1,700 general labour and trades workers throughout New Brunswick, in over 8 Departments, including Provincial Parks.