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.

 

Nursing Home Workers Protest Employers

Fredericton  This Thursday, over 300 CUPE members rallied in front of the provincial office of the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes office (NBANH), the organization negotiating for the majority of nursing home employers in New Brunswick.

The NB Council of Nursing Homes Union, which represents 4000 CUPE members working in 45 nursing homes across New Brunswick, is protesting the inflexibility of the NBANH which led to breakdown in bargaining talks with the Union Council.

“The employer is still demanding concessions and wants to create a two-tier employment system. This is unacceptable. If they don’t take this off the conciliation table, a strike is unavoidable,” said Wayne Brown, President of the NBCNHU.

“CUPE members have adopted a National Policy on fighting concessions and two-tier agreements. This means we are ready to put the whole weight of CUPE National behind the nursing home workers. CUPE will bargain forward, not backwards,” said Mark Hancock, CUPE National President.

CUPE members in nursing homes agree the employer’s proposal will not solve the ongoing understaffing and workload problems in nursing homes.

“Our union’s general meeting is coming up in May – we have now added strike preparation and education sessions for all members on the agenda,” said Roland Cormier, Vice-President of the NBCNHU.

Contract talks between the Union and the Employer broke down on March 23rd. A conciliator has been appointed to meet with both parties on the last week of May.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CUPE NB 55th Annual Convention – Labour Minister LePage to address delegates

Fredericton – Tuesday, over 330 public employees and elected union leaders from all sectors will convene to Fredericton for CUPE NB’s 55th Annual Convention, titled  “Bargaining Forward in Solidarity”.

The Convention’s theme reiterates last month’s “Breaking The Mandate – Bargaining Forward” conference, which highlighted the importance of coordinated bargaining in order to increase worker’s wages in our province.

Multiple guest and speakers are expected at this Convention, including:

  • Mark Hancock, CUPE National President;
  • Charles Fleury,  CUPE National Secretary Treasurer;
  • Jennifer McKenzie, NB NDP leader;
  • New Brunswick’s Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister, Gilles LePage.

“Workers across the province have an important role to play in the success of our beautiful province. They keep our hospitals, schools and stores running – and this, in turn, helps grow the economy, strengthen education and improve health care,” said Gilles LePage, Minister of Postsecondary Education, Training and Labour for the Government of New Brunswick.

CUPE NB notes that this is the first time since Richard Hatfield was Premier that a Labour Minister will speak at an annual convention.

“This is a welcome change,” says Daniel Légère, CUPE NB President. “Our Minister will have a chance to meet our members, who come from so many sectors. I am sure they will remind him of how their wages do help our communities and our economy grow,” said Légère.

CUPE NB’s four day convention is expected to bring in over $420,000.00 in direct revenues to the Fredericton community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submission: Domestic Violence Leave

Everyone deserves to work in a safer environment, free from violence, and to be supported when incidents happen.

The Government of New Brunswick is currently seeking input regarding potential leave provisions for persons subjected to domestic, intimate partner or sexual violence. These provisions would require amendments to NB’s Employment Standards Act, allowing every worker in NB to access them.

CUPE NB has submitted the following recommendations:

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

Submissions are accepted until April 20th, 2018, and can be sent to: labour-travail@gnb.ca.

Find our submission in its entirety below:

Home Care Workers Protest the Canadian Red Cross

Saint John – On March 29th, over 200 workers and supporters rallied at the Canadian Red Cross provincial headquarters in Saint John, New Brunswick. CUPE Local 4598, which represents 136 Canadian Red Cross home support workers in NB, are denouncing their employer’s immobility at the bargaining table.

On April 1st, just after the Easter weekend, the home care employees begin a ninth year without a collective agreement.

“The employer needs to bring real wage increases to the table. If they can’t do that, after nine years, they should admit it to the public,” saidThérèse Duguay, President of the Local 4598.

Duguay has been working for the Red Cross for over 15 years, but only makes $13.65 per hour.

“The Canadian Red Cross has annual operating revenues of over 300 million dollars, yet they can’t find a way to lift their own workers out of poverty?” asked Duguay.

“As stated in Ontario’s “Sunshine List”, Red Cross’s CEO, Conrad Sauvé, made $332,000 this year. Meanwhile, seniors and vulnerable people depend on us, and we can’t make ends meet. No guaranteed hours and a low pay hurts us and our families. It means high worker turnover and dissatisfaction – that hurts everyone,” she added.

“The whole sector of home care in our province is a sad mess. The province needs to step up to make things right for seniors and workers,”said Daniel Légère, President of CUPE NB.  “That why we have started the “Who Cares?” campaign for community care workers, because this government needs to intervene immediately for workers and clients,” added Légère.

At the rally, Daniel Légère reiterated his challenge to all political parties to include fully publicly managed community care services in NB in their electoral platform.

Public and Private Sector Pay: Why Workers Need to “Break the Mandate”

On Monday, March 19th, the Daily Gleaner published an editorial misrepresenting the position of CUPE members and attacking the right of public sector unions to exist.

Why is the Daily Gleaner so opposed to the betterment of the working conditions in this province? Painting ordinary CUPE members – our plow operators, licensed practical nurses, educational assistants, municipal workers, nursing-home caregivers that are delivering essential services – as “fat cats” is as false as it is ridiculous.

As president of the CUPE NB Division, I must correct the numerous inaccuracies written by your editor.

At last week’s Breaking the Mandate Conference, CUPE has not called for “mass strikes”, “bumping up pay hikes to two per cent per year” nor did we call for members to “take advantage of the government through labour stoppages”.

We did, however, call for better wages for all, and that includes public sector workers.

In general, the Canadian economy has been growing strongly, but wages haven’t. The failure of wages to rise more strongly is not a mystery. The richest one percent are the ones reaping all the benefits from this growth, are paying less taxes while ordinary workers are left out with declining purchasing power. Public sector wage freezes, cuts and austerity have reduced overall wage growth. Wage settlements for public sector workers have increased by less than private sector workers for seven of the last eight years, and by less than inflation for five of the last eight years.

The reason is simple: the cost of living is rising at an increasingly rapid pace, and public-sector pay grew at a historically slow pace due to Liberals’ and Conservatives’ wage restraint mandates. This has had direct economic repercussions: it bogged down our provincial recovery from the “Great Recession” of 2008 at the very moment where it needed stimulus, not austerity.

This slow pace is clear when you adjust wages to inflation, for real dollar figures. In the last 10 years, many CUPE members have made little progress:

  • Nursing home resident attendants’ wages have only increased by an average of 1.2% per year, since 2008.
  • Licensed practical nurses’ wages only grew 0.8% per year since 2008.
  • School bus drivers’ wages have actually decreased by 0.9% since 2008.

Meanwhile, income (calculated on an hourly basis) of the top 100 highest-paid CEOs in Canada, has shot up 300% just over the last year. The average worker, public or private, is not benefiting from the economic recovery. That’s why for the many, the words “economic recovery” rings hollow. As the middle class is shrinking, the upper class is making record profits.

Contrary to the Daily Gleaner editor, CUPE NB believes public AND private sector wages should increase. Inciting one group of workers to push to lower the pay of the other is counterproductive and it’s an old divide and conquer technique that unions have fought against since their beginnings.

As the gap between rich and poor keeps growing, public and private unions are as – if not more – important than ever since the 1970s. People want to participate in determining their wages and working conditions, they want fairness in their workplace. This necessarily means more workplace democracy, which comes mainly through negotiated collective agreements or the creation of workers’ co-ops.

In closing, I want to remind the Daily Gleaner’s editor of a few facts: The right to strike, as well as the right of public sector unions to exist, have been enshrined in our nation’s constitutional fabric and has been reaffirmed countless times by the Canadian Supreme Court. Union Rights are Human Rights.

Daniel Légère is the President of the New Brunswick Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.