Read our message to members to celebrate this historical labour event in New Brunswick
This Saturday, the collective agreement covering close to 4,400 unionized nursing home workers in New Brunswick will expire. The agreement between the NB Council of Nursing Home Unions (NBCNHU) and their employer, the NB Nursing Home Association, is effective from October 16, 2016 to October 15, 2022.
“We look forward to see the employers, represented by the NB Nursing Home Association and the Government of New Brunswick which funds non-profit nursing homes, to both be ready to be constructive partners in the coming negotiations,” said Sharon Teare, president of the NBCNHU.
Negotiations have not yet begun. Sharon Teare is hoping that the past few years and the healthcare crisis have opened the eyes of the government to the urgent need to improve staffing, working conditions, and senior care.
During the last quarterly fiscal update, GNB reported a year-end surplus of $777.3 million for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022. “There is no rational reason to see government deny or delay fair bargaining with workers,” said Teare.
Over the previous two years, nursing home staff did their duties in the most at-risk workplaces, yet none received any bonuses, “COVID-pay” or recruitment aid of any sort from the Provincial government.
“Even before we factor in inflation, there is much catch-up to do in terms of wages, working conditions, and pensions. I believe we can hammer out a new contract over the next month or weeks even. I hope the government shares our commitment to improve senior care,” concluded Teare.
Fredericton, NB – CUPE Local 1252, representing over 9000 healthcare workers in New Brunswick, was successful in its grievance to have National Truth and Reconciliation Day (NTRD) recognized. In the decision issued on August 10, 2022, arbitrator Robert Breen upheld CUPE 1252’s grievance, ordering the provincial government to recognize the holiday for workers.
“Thanks to the diligent activism of indigenous communities, public pressure, and organized labour, Premier Higgs had no choice but to recognize September 30th – The Truth and Reconciliation Day, as an official provincial holiday,” said Trent Snikkers, the CUPE Servicing representative who argued the grievance for CUPE 1252.
Back in 2021, Premier Higgs had flatly refused to recognize September 30th as an official Holiday. A month later, CUPE members had to go on strike for fair wages. “The strike taught us all that the only time Higgs listens to workers, indigenous peoples, or rural communities is when they push back. That’s why multiple CUPE locals filed grievances in 2022 so the NTRD be recognized. I commend the workers who pushed the government to go beyond lip service to Truth and Reconciliation,” said Steve Drost, President of CUPE NB.
CUPE stands in solidarity with the Miꞌkmaq, Wolastoqey, and Peskotomuhkati nations, whose traditional lands are in the Maritime Provinces of Canada. Recognizing September 30th is important to heal the wounds of the past. We cannot forget the children who attended “Indian Day Schools”, the Sussex Vale School, and the Shubenacadie Residential School. The colonial goal of these institutions was plainly stated as “to kill the Indian in the heart of the child”. This was one of the multiple methods put in place by governments to destroy Indigenous culture, identity, and collective power.
In his written decision, Arbitrator Breen ordered the province to properly compensate all affected employees for September 30, 2021.
“As trade unionists, we strive to make reconciliation a tangible reality in our lives, in our workplaces, and through our collective agreements,” said Trent Snikkers.
On September 30th, also known as Truth and Reconciliation Day (TRD), we invite all union members to take time to remember the victims and survivors of residential schools. This day was proclaimed a statutory holiday by the Federal Government in 2021. At last, thanks to indigenous activism, public pressure, grievances made by CUPE locals and more, the New Brunswick government just proclaimed it a statutory holiday.
Last this week, it was revealed that New Brunswick’s government employee “shared-risk” pension plan failed to pay retired employees a full cost-of-living increase on retirement benefits. Vestcor – the corporation managing over $21 billion in public employee pension and other funds – cannot guarantee higher future payouts to compensate for the current shortfall.
“Retirees are being short-changed. On behalf of our retirees and current members, we are demanding that Finance Minister Ernie Steeves and Premier Blaine Higgs force Vestcor to open their books to the Auditor General,” said Steve Drost, President of CUPE NB.
In early 2021, Auditor General Kim Adair-MacPherson released a scathing report demonstrating a serious lack of transparency from Vestcor, which constrained her ability to do her job. As a watchdog for citizens, the Auditor General (AG) has the mandate to examine public accounts, including public sector pensions. “To this day, Vestcor still refuses to let the AG have access to the information needed so she can report instances of misuse of funds or mismanagement. This is more than suspicious,” said Drost.
Over the last 5 years, Vestcor has been criticized for giving lavish performance bonuses to its top managers, despite being among the lowest-performing investment management company in Canada. “Their recent failure to follow inflation is another clear-cut case that proves privatization of public services does not serve the citizens,” said Drost.
After a career in public service, CUPE members will have a very modest pension upon retirement. “With a defined-benefit plan, like most had before Higgs set up Vestcor after he dismantled the crown corporation that managed public service pensions, workers would have seen their pensions keep up with inflation. Workers’ wages and pensions – which are deferred wages – should at the very least keep up with inflation,” concluded Drost.
We wish to give thanks and recognize the exceptional work done by front-line workers. In the last 12 months, you, CUPE members, stood on the picket lines across the province to protect the public services New Brunswickers need and rely on.
On this Labour Day, we celebrate and embrace your solidarity which is the backbone of working-class action. It is with this spirit of unity among all workers that we must keep on fighting for good jobs, strengthen the worker’s movement and workers’ power.
This year, we have heard so many heartbreaking and concerning examples of staff shortages. The root cause of this – the shortage of good jobs in both the private and the public sector – is what we must tackle. It is our systems that are failing us, not the frontline workers: we are committed to protecting our public services for all New Brunswickers.
Workers can no longer settle for the ongoing exploitation and poor working conditions that they were dealing with before the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is why CUPE is pushing to expand union rights to all workers in our province. Organizing, joining a union and fighting for better jobs, better protections and benefits, is the best way to guarantee workers have to make real change happen.
This Labour Day, we recommit to building worker-to-worker solidarity. Let’s celebrate the extraordinary things that everyday people can accomplish when we combine our efforts and work together toward common goals. Collective action works.
On behalf of the 28 000 members of CUPE NB, we wish you and your family a safe and happy Labour Day.
The CUPE NB Executive
Link to Labour Day events in your region: https://nb.cupe.ca/event/nb-labour-day-events/?instance_id=139
Are you interested in fostering bargaining and political power within your local? Do you want to learn what is at stake and what it takes to develop policies and legislation which strengthen the labour movement? Would you consider helping in campaigns or running for a provincial or federal seat? Do you want to develop an NDP that works better for workers? Then please join MP Leah Gazan (MB), former MP Peggy Nash (ON), former MLA Howard Epstein (NS), NDP MLA Suzy Hansen (NS) and others to learn how to do just that.
We will look at the problem of decades of neo-liberal governance; how to fight back; develop an intersectional analysis; and develop a deeper understanding of climate justice from experts across the Atlantic.
- WHEN: Sunday, September 25th [evening] to Thursday, September 29th [half day]
- WHERE: Four Points Sheraton Halifax, 1496 Hollis Street, Halifax, NS B3J 3Z1
- COST: $1,200.00 – includes hotel and all meals [except dinner on Monday], $ 400.00 – includes lunches and dinners [except dinner on Monday]
Greetings Sisters, Brothers, and Friends,
On behalf of CUPE NB, I wish you and your family a Happy New Brunswick Day. This year’s celebration is particularly important as we are now over two years into the COVID 19 pandemic. Many of our public services have been stretched to the maximum and yet you still show up and do your best to provide quality public services to the people of New Brunswick. We thank you on New Brunswick Day, and we value you and your work every day.
CUPE NB President.
Salutations, consœurs, confrères et amis,
Au nom du SCFP NB, je vous souhaite, à vous et à votre famille, une bonne fête du Nouveau-Brunswick. La célébration de cette année est particulièrement importante puisque la pandémie de COVID 19 dure maintenant depuis plus de deux ans. Bon nombre de nos services publics ont été poussés au maximum et pourtant, vous êtes toujours prêts à faire de votre mieux pour offrir des services publics de qualité au pour tous les citoyens. En cette fête du Nouveau-Brunswick, le SCFP NB tient à vous remercier et vous dire que nous apprécions le travail que vous faites à tous les jours.
En toute solidarité,
Président du SCFP NB.