Community Care Workers Recognized as Essential Workers

Fredericton, May 21, 2020 – The unionized community care workers – those working in group homes, transition houses, youth homes, women’s shelters, home care, food banks – are pleased to see how provincial government has now considered them “essential” and “eligible” for the new federal wage top-up funds.

“We hope the recognition becomes permanent in our field,” said Laurie Anderson, president of the NB Community Service Unions (NBCSU) and herself a group home worker. “This federal program is a victory for us, and I hope the provincial recognition does not fade away after the crisis, so we don’t fall back down to near minimum wage levels again,” she added. 

The provincial program targets full-time workers earning less than $18 an hour more targeting essential service workers in every province. However, as the field is dominated by part-time work and atypical shifts, Anderson fears too many could be left out.

“Wages are good. But I worry about those women and men who don’t have enough hours and must hold 2 or 3 jobs. Will they be left out by the program? I wish folks in Fredericton would want to talk to us so we can make this work for all and leave no one behind,” said Anderson.

“Our sector has many challenges, which we flagged multiple times through letters to Dorothy Shephard, the Minister of Social Development. Unfortunately, she has yet to respond to our letters or invitations to meet,” added Anderson.

Among issues raised by the NBCSU to the Minister, workers raised the problematic lax application of PPE requirements in most community care establishments in NB.

“We have too many employers who are operating contrary to WorkSafeNB requirements and rules surrounding our “community setting” for primary workers,” said Anderson.  “I hope we can talk to the Minister so we can get everybody on board, employers and workers, so all are safe and adequately resourced to deliver the care our most vulnerable depend on,” she concluded.

The NBCSU represents over 500 workers in the community care sector throughout New Brunswick. This includes workers in home support, group homes, special care homes, transition houses and more.

Higgs’ Wage Recognition Plan Leaves Too Many Behind

Fredericton – On Wednesday, May 20, Premier Blaine Higgs announced how and who would be admissible for the federal government funded Wage Top-up program. The provincial program targets some full-time essential service workers earning less than $18/hr.

“While many are finally receiving some well-deserved recognition, specifically those in childcare, group homes, special care homes, transition houses and women’s shelter, others have unjustifiably been left behind,” said Brien Watson, President of CUPE NB.

CUPE NB notes that in healthcare, classifications such as dietary aides, laundry workers, porters and many others have starting salaries below $18/hr.

While Higgs said he is leaving the door open to add nursing home staff to the list of covered front-line workers, he has not said if many other workers, such as hospital workers earning less than $18/hr, would be included.

“Government cannot leave behind essential workers, neither should they dismiss front-line workers who earn more than $18/hr. They also deserve wage recognition. Front-line workers are generally underpaid in New Brunswick, especially when we compare with other provinces,” said Watson.

Across Canada, front-line workers in the battle against COVID-19 are expecting a $4/hr wage recognition, with many provinces going beyond the federal program and putting wage top-ups of their own. “This would be the right thing to do in NB, to improve all essential workers’ wages beyond the federal government’s contribution,” said Watson.

“We can do better than just rely on federal money. Wage recognition is necessary to fix the recruitment and retention crisis in the public sector. We need more people in essential services. This predates the pandemic,” concluded Watson.

NB Front-Line Workers Deserve Wage Recognition

May 8 2020, Fredericton – On May 7, Prime Minister Trudeau announced a $4 Billion Wage Top-up program targeting essential service workers in every province. CUPE NB considers this cost-shared program, where the federal pays 75% of the costs, and provinces pay the remaining 25%, as a great program to improve wages in our public services.

“As a healthcare worker myself, I am very pleased to hear this federal announcement. I hope the provincial government provides the increase to all workers in healthcare, long term care, community care, but also all essential front-line workers,” said Norma Robinson, President of CUPE 1252, the NB Council of Hospital Unions.

Across Canada, front-line workers in the battle against COVID-19 are expecting a $4/hour wage recognition.

“Premier Higgs, with this program, you have a ready-made solution to solve the crisis in NB nursing homes,” said Sharon Teare, President of the NB Council of Nursing Home Unions. “The $4 adjustment can help solve the recruitment and retention crisis that predates the pandemic. Let’s work together to make it right, today,” said Teare.

“Even before COVID-19, a real wage adjustment was long overdue in healthcare. Overstretched and overburdened staff like paramedics, LPNs, trade workers, PSWs, security guards and so many other classifications deserve this,” said Norma Robinson.

CUPE NB launched the “Breaking the Mandate – Bargaining Forward” campaign 3 years ago to highlight the urgency to make real wage improvements for all workers. Too many have seen stagnant wages while the cost of living continues to rise. This has created widespread labour shortages in the public sector.

“I am hopeful. I think our Premier has the chance to “turn the page” and foster constructive government-worker relations,” said CUPE NB President, Brien Watson. “Government has learned to trust workers as we rally to protect the health and safety of our communities. I believe this could be the start of a mutually beneficial cooperation,” he added.

“The moment is right to fix long-term wage issues in NB. I hope the Premier shares my optimism and will also recognize how staff in corrections, community care sector, youth services, NB Liquor workers, transportation, social workers and so many others need to be included in this wage adjustment plan,” concluded Watson.

 

A disastrous lockout for workers and the environment

May 5, Allardville, NB – The 23 workers at the Red Pine landfill site, locked out since February 13 – are sounding the alarm.

“Spring is coming, the ground is thawing, and the landfill is now an environmental time bomb,” said Serge Plourde, President of CUPE Local 4193, representing the workers at the landfill.

Among the locked-out employees is also an environmental technologist who is seriously concerned about the situation. “Are water treatment testing practices regularly and meticulously performed by competent and experienced personnel who are familiar with the reality of the landfill site? “asks Yvon Richard, technologist.

“It’s only a matter of time, in the event of a failure to test, a very rainy spring, to see contaminated spills in the Nepisiguit River,” adds Richard.

“Has the Chaleur Regional Services Commission (CRSC) warned the local populations and First Nations of the environmental risk associated with the lockout? “asks Brien Watson, President of CUPE NB.

Union members are also denouncing the ongoing contracting out practices.  The employer is using family members to do work of bargaining unit members, as well as posting student positions. “It’s shameful to get to this point instead of putting in place the winning conditions to negotiate a fair and equitable contract,” says Plourde.

Of all the workplaces where CUPE is present in the country, only the CRSC keeps its employees locked out. CUPE represents more than 700,000 workers in Canada.

“Mayors of the Chaleur region, put an end to the lockout.  This has gone on long enough,” concludes Brien Watson.

CUPE NB Statement – April 28, Day of Mourning

Fredericton – On April 28, the National Day of Mourning for workers killed or Injured on the job, we remember all the workers we have lost, and we vow to keep fighting for safe and healthy workplaces for everyone. A virtual ceremony organized by the NB Federation of Labour will be held in New Brunswick.

Every year in Canada, around 1000 workers lose their lives on the job. According to WorkSafeNB, nine people lost their lives on the job in 2019 – more than the previous five years. “Their deaths were preventable and should not have had happen. And each one is a tragedy,” said Brien Watson, CUPE NB President.

“COVID-19 makes this day even more important, as now everybody sees the importance of health and safety rules and practices,” said Watson. “Every effort must be made to protect front-line staff who are exposed to the risk of contagion so that others can stay safe at home,” said Watson.

“We mourn the dead and we fight for the living. We still need better legislation, better workplace safety education, and ensure all workers have the vital personal protective equipment to do their job in these times,” said Watson.

Virtual gatherings are happening across the country to align with public health directives that are keeping us all safe throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

CUPE NB Invites members and the public to participate in the NBFL April 28 ceremony through Facebook Live.  The ceremony will begin at noon, through the NB Federation of Labour’s Facebook page: @NewBrunswickFederationOfLabour

 

Member Update: COVID-19 – April 21

 

Fourth Update on COVID-19

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Thanks to a fortunate mix of hard work, patience, front-line efforts, geography and a pinch of luck, New Brunswick and PEI are both experiencing below average progression rates of COVID-19.

Despite this relatively enviable position in our country, the Federal government has not indicated when they will seriously consider loosening public health restrictions to reopen the domestic economy. This will be likely done in phases with some regions and industries starting sooner than others. It is too early to say what will happen.

Members are doing important work across both provinces in our region during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the public is noticing. This is good news for us, as before this crisis, too many front-line workers were forgotten or underappreciated by government. Keep up the good work!


The CUPE Maritimes staff is doing phenomenal work and I want to recognize their efforts. They have been “behind the scenes” working long hours ensuring CUPE members are having their rights respected and that information that members need is being shared. We have daily staff calls to share information and work collaboratively and this united and consistent approach is working very well in our region.

Bargaining Paused Until May 11th

As you were already aware of the bargaining talks being paused, I wanted to let you that there will be no bargaining at least until May 11th, 2020. On that day, we will reassess the situation and inform members. For the moment, government and employer negotiators cannot meet, as there is still not enough safety to permit gatherings or hold in person talks.

Meeting virtually and doing union business in a new way

As you were already aware of the bargaining talks being paused, I wanted to let you that there will be no bargaining at least until May 11th, 2020. On that day, we will reassess the situation and inform members. For the moment, government and employer negotiators cannot meet, as there is still not enough safety to permit gatherings or hold in person talks.

ass gatherings will likely not be feasible until restrictions are lifted in many, many months from here. Therefore, every local should do all they can to have the capacity to conduct all necessary business according to their bylaws. This means adopting new technologies and online meeting tools. Talk to your servicing reps on electronic voting tools and the best way to keep conducting union business.

REMINDER: Every CUPE member must register online so that we can have emergency communication lines and electronic voting capacity. Please ask your local union rep for the registration link.

It is very important that you add your current local number in the form. If you do not know your local number, please clearly indicate the employer you work for (where you work) in the box titled “Name of Employer”.
Personal cellphone numbers (not work cellphones) are needed to ensure mass member emergency texting. To keep our lists as “clean” as possible, we ask that you do not post the links on social media.

Updates on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and EI Emergency Response Benefit (EI-ERB)

CERB has been expanded and made more flexible. The federal government is making changes to aid seasonal workers without jobs and those whose hours have been drastically cut but who still have some income. The changes will also allow people who are making up to $1,000 a month to qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, as well as those whose employment insurance benefits have run out since the start of the calendar year.

For those doing jobs deemed essential and making less than $2,500 a month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will top up their pay to encourage them to keep going into work during the health and economic crisis.

To apply to the CERB, visit : https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your Servicing Representative.

In Soldarity,

Sandy Harding
Maritimes Regional Director

COVID-19 Definitions

Most people have some confusion about all the various terms being used during the current pandemic. Here is a list compiling terms and definitions used by various governments, media outlets, health centres and universities. COVID-19_Glossary_ENG_2020

PPE use and care

Personal protective equipment (PPE) exists to create a barrier between you and a patient/resident/client to prevent spread of a contaminant such as the virus that
causes COVID-19 to either you or the patient. It exists to help protect your skin, airways, mucous membranes, and/or clothing. This fact sheet summarizes use and care of gloves, gowns, masks, and eye protection. PDF:PPE Use and Care

Protecting the Unsung Heroes in Healthcare

Fredericton, NB – March 31, 2020  – As we begin a second week under the “State of emergency “, CUPE Local 1252, the union representing 10 000 healthcare workers in New Brunswick, wants to remind government of the importance of all healthcare workers.

“It’s more than doctors and nurses putting their lives on the line each and every day to fight this terrible virus. There are many unsung heroes in healthcare, particularly those in-patient service-like licensed practical nurses, personal care attendants, paramedics and dispatchers. Also, we can’t forget maintenance workers, food service employees, clerical staff and environmental service workers, “said Norma Robinson, president of CUPE Local 1252.

Currently, Local 1252 is in continuous discussions with the Health Department so all front-line workers’ safety is not taken lightly.

“Workers need proper safety equipment and adequate resources and time to follow all the sanitation protocols. As a union, we want to make sure the employees can work but also return home after a stressful day and not worry about spreading it to their families as well,” said Ralph McBride, CUPE National Servicing Representative.

“Social distancing, or physical distancing as we are now saying, means no gatherings. In Quebec, the government had to put a ban on public gatherings of 3 or more. This might happen here too if people are not doing what they must,” added Robinson. “This is vital not only to you but also the system and workers as well. “As much as possible, please stay home and don’t frequent public areas,” concluded Robinson.

 

Member Update: COVID-19 – March 27

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you to all locals and members for your extraordinary work during this unprecedented time. Members are doing important work across both provinces in our region during the COVID-19 pandemic. We always appreciate and value everything that you do, especially during this crisis.

Members Contracting COVID-19
Currently, we have no reports of CUPE members in our region contracting COVID-19. In order to help everyone stay safe, we would like to track our members who contract COVID-19 and would appreciate that you forward this information to us as you receive it.  Basic information is required: local number, occupation of the member and information if this was a workplace transmission. For obvious privacy concerns, we are not asking for the names of the individuals.
If you have been laid off due to COVID-19, please notify your local’s executive.

Provincial COVID-19 Information Websites
New Brunswick: https://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/ocmoh/cdc/content/respiratory_diseases/coronavirus.html
Prince Edward Island: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/topic/covid-19

PEI & NB Emergency Child Care Services
Emergency childcare services are reserved for children of essential service workers who have no other alternatives. Please complete the form linked below only if you require childcare services during this time and are an essential service worker.
PEI: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/service/emergency-child-care-services
NB: https://www.nbed.nb.ca/parentportal/en/

EI Benefits

Federal government announced laid-off workers who have applied for EI due to coronavirus-related job losses should be eligible for a $2,000 benefit for up to four months. After this period, they will be switched over to standard EI if they are still out of work.  To apply for EI benefits, you can do it online: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness/apply.html

Afterwards, you can apply to have the one-week waiting period waived by calling the government’s toll-free number at 1-833-381-2725. Applicants usually need a medical certificate along with records of employment, though the new rules allow quarantined workers to apply without the former.  We have also included below the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Q & A: https://cupe.ca/canada-emergency-response-benefit-qa

State of Emergency in NB, PEI and the rest of Canada
State of emergency laws mean many closures and restrictions are now required to be followed by law. There are still too many people not abiding by the restrictions and recommendations from chief medical officer of health. All non-essential retail businesses must cease all operations immediately. Gatherings of 10 or more people are now not permitted.

CUPE Taskforce on Virtual Work and Member Registration
Virtual tools and phone work permit us to coordinate and carry out our union duties. Thus, we set up a CUPE Maritimes staff taskforce to find the best tools and actions to take on those challenges we face. Our goal is to get information and power to you, but we need your help. Every CUPE member must register so that we can have emergency communication lines and electronic voting capacity. Please consult your union emails or your executive for registration info.

Mass member registration is necessary to build lists for all locals. The provisions to engage in social distancing (i.e. staying home as much as possible, keeping 2m apart when you have to go out) could remain in force for many more weeks and possibly longer. All locals must gain the ability to conduct virtual meetings, ratification votes, sharing of meeting minutes, etc. Personal cellphone numbers (not work cellphones) are needed to ensure mass member emergency texting.

Postponement of AGMs
As social distancing rules and gathering restrictions remain at this point, no large union gatherings or AGMs can be held. Below are the cancellations that we have confirmed:

  • CUPE New Brunswick Convention
  • New Brunswick Community Services Unions Annual General Meeting
  • CUPE Local 1252 Convention
  • CUPE Local 1253 Convention
  • CUPE Local 1418 Convention
  • CUPE 1190 Annual General Meeting
  • CUPE Local 2745 Convention and July Education Sessions

Please send us your intent to cancel your AGMs and we will add them to our list.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your Servicing Representative or myself.

In Solidarity,

Sandy Harding
Maritimes Regional Director

db/cope491