Rural New Brunswick hit one more time

Perth-Andover (March 25, 2013):  The Perth-Andover community received other bad news today.

The operating room at the local hospital will close permanently.  The affected staff was informed this afternoon of this decision.

The Union representing hospital workers, CUPE Local 1252, was informed late this afternoon that the operating room will be closing as of May 1.

“This is a continuing attack on rural New Brunswick health care services”, said Norma Robinson, President of CUPE Local 1252.

“Perth-Andover is not the only community affected.  There will be reduction in other smaller heath care facilities’ operating rooms this summer.  In St. Stephen, the operating room will be closed for 6 weeks and the future of the service will be evaluated after that period.”

“Late in 2011, the government reduced health services in rural communities by reducing the operating hours of community health centres and reducing staff in some hospitals.  Now they are closing operating rooms”.

“What will be next?  New Brunswickers living in rural communities should be very concerned about the future of health care services they are receiving”, concluded Norma Robinson.

 

CUPE NB launches a buy local initiative

FREDERICTON ( March 20, 2013):  CUPE NB launches today a campaign to encourage its membership and all New Brunswickers to buy local products first.

“The 10% Shift campaign is to encourage New Brunswick’s 30,000 CUPE members and their families to shift just ten percent of their spending to locally-produced goods and services”, explained Daniel Légère, President of CUPE NB.

“We can all do our share to keep our local economy strong. We understand the challenges that local governments face every day and the 10% Shift is one way for us to put forward positive solutions that benefit the entire community.”

“We challenge municipalities and the provincial government to pledge to the 10% Shift.  If we want to rebuild and strengthen our economy; we need to buy locally, we should all think local first.”

“We believe it’s time for New Brunswick to move forward.  We have many local entrepreneurs that create jobs in our respective communities. We need to support them.”

“The 10% Shift is not a new concept; it has been spreading across the States and Canada. In New Brunswick, there are already various initiatives in communities to buy from local merchants instead of big box stores owned by foreign corporations.”

“The 10% Shift campaign is reinforcing those local initiatives. Over the years, we have seen our manufactures close their doors, unable to compete with goods from Asia. Some move their productions oversea to increase their profitability. Those decisions based on profit have devastated many of our communities.”

“The government has been focusing on attracting big businesses to set up shop through financial incentives. A good example is Acton which received $50 million in loan guarantees and went bankrupt.  The jobs created with tax payers’ money were gone. ”

“We believe there is more than one way to boost our economy. For example, if every one of us spend a small amount of our weekly disposable income on local goods supporting our local entrepreneurs, at the end of the year it would have a huge impact on our communities.

“That’s how we build strong communities. That’s the philosophy behind the 10% Shift campaign, which encourages consumers to “shift” ten percent of their spending to locally owned businesses and services and encourages New Brunswickers from all over the province to make a more conscious and deliberate effort to use individual purchasing power to improve local economies.  If there is one thing we control, it’s our own wallet and shopping pattern,” concludes Légère.

Rallies against EI Reform on Women’s Day

Rally agaisnt EI Reform in FredericMarch 8th is usually a day to celebrate the success of women in the economic, political and social realms. Yes, women have come a long way in society but this year there is a black cloud hanging over their head.

This year, there are dark clouds looming and thousands of women in the work force are very concerned about the drastic changes made by the Harper Government to the Employment Insurance (EI) program and about their impacts on them. Women fear they will have more difficulty accessing EI benefits when they desperately need this financial support when they are in-between jobs.

The first dark cloud is the new division of unemployed workers in three separate categories. Each category will be force to apply for jobs which will only pay 90%, 80 % or 70% of their former salary.  In NB, thousands of women fall into the “frequent” category of claimants because of the seasonality of their jobs: tourism, fishing industry, education. With the new changes, these women will have less time to find a suitable job and will also now be forced to accept jobs that will pay up to 30% less than in their former employment. This will have an impact on their present employment revenue and certainly on their future EI claims. They will be seriously disadvantaged financially.

The second dark cloud is that it will become increasingly difficult to refuse a job. Yes, Service Canada claims that a job may be turned down if it is not deemed suitable for reasons of family responsibilities, hours of work and travel time. However, it is quite clear in the federal government EI policies, as elaborated in the Digest of Benefits Entitlement Principles, that women will have a hard time refusing jobs on these criteria. As detailed in Annex A, family obligations and hours of work will rarely be accepted as legitimate reasons for declining a job offer. Claimants will be expected to make arrangements for the care of family members so as to allow them to accept the hours of work that are available in the labour market. Women applying for a job and telling the employer that they are only available for a limited period of time because they are pregnant will be considered as refusing a job. Travel will not easily be accepted as a legitimate excuse to refuse a job. This applies to people living in remote, rural, urban or suburban areas.

The third dark cloud is the modification of the 14 best weeks Pilot Project  which was in place all of NB except the more urban EI region of Moncton-Saint John-Fredericton. This pilot project was beneficial to women. The 2011 Report on the Monitoring and Evaluation of EI says that- the average weekly benefit of affected claimants in 2010/11 would have been $290, instead of $337.  The modification of the 14 best weeks Pilot Project  to 14 – 22 best weeks means that women in the Restigouche-Albert and Edmundston-Charlotte EI regions won’t have this advantage anymore, the end result being a decrease in their revenue. They will be disadvantaged financially.

The fourth black cloud is the disappearance of the Pilot Project of the five extra weeks of EI for regions of high unemployment.  Women who were in the seasonal industries of tourism, fisheries and others were able, in this way, to extend their benefit period and not fall in the Spring Black Hole. The EI Monitoring and Assessment Report, 2011 reported that 57.6% of frequent claimants benefited from this pilot project[1].The 2010 report said the same thing. The cancellation of this pilot project will certainly be financially disadvantageous for women.

These above reasons are just some of the foreseeable negative impacts that the EI changes will have on women in NB and everywhere else in Canada. It is too early to predict with certainty what will be the overall impact of these sweeping changes on women but we can say with certainty that it will only aggravate the financial situation of women if they lose their employment and need to access EI benefits.

We hope that the 2013 International Women’s Day will be an occasion for all NB women to form a solidarity chain and unite as sisters to fight against the Harper Government ‘s attack on such an essential program that is preventing women to fall into poverty in-between jobs.

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GOVERNMENT ACTION IS NEEDED TO PROTECT AND ADVANCE WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Fredericton (March 8, 2013) – On this International Women’s Day, CUPE New Brunswick calls on our governments to step up and be accountable for protecting and advancing women’s rights.  Observance of March 8th began over a hundred years ago to mark the struggles for decent working conditions and voting rights for women in Europe and North America.

”We are inspired by the hard-fought struggles for equality of those who came before us,” says Marilyn MacCormack, Chair of the CUPE NB Women’s Committee.  “But much inequality remains. We also know that what is gained can be lost.  Women and men must continue their efforts and keep a close eye on what governments are doing to help or harm equality,” affirms MacCormack.

“Economic inequality is still a fact of life for women in 2013,” notes Odette Robichaud, Vice-President for Women’s Issues for CUPE NB. “Equal pay for work of equal value is an internationally recognized human right, but women still earn less on average than men. New Brunswick’s public sector pay equity law has been in effect since April 2010, but the government is dragging its heels on implementation.  After more than a year of efforts, the job evaluation process is now stalled for two CUPE locals representing court stenographers and education support staff.  It’s time for the province to set up an effective Pay Equity Bureau that will oversee enforcement of the law,” asserts Robichaud.

Pay equity legislation is also needed to protect the more than 100,000 women who are employed in the private sector in New Brunswick. That’s two-thirds of all women workers in the province and it includes many who provide important government mandated and publicly subsidized care services.

“Society still doesn’t recognize the real value of women’s caring work,” says Thérèse Duguay, President of CUPE Local 4598, representing Red Cross home support workers. “Home support workers earn low wages, have no guarantee of enough hours to earn a decent living, receive a pittance for travel costs and most of us have no sick leave, pension plan or other benefits.”

“It was disappointing to see the results of the provincial government’s pay equity exercise for employees in the child care, home support and transition house sectors,” continues Duguay.  Only three of eight job classifications will see any salary increases, with small pay adjustments spread over five years. The methodology used must be reviewed by outside experts so that these kind of female-dominated jobs can be properly evaluated,” affirms Duguay.

“Achieving social and economic equality for women requires focused government action” says Sandy Harding, Vice-President of CUPE NB.  “Child care is one of the essential building blocks.  We need a quality, affordable non-profit child care program for all children. Many of the families with young children who receive the $100 monthly child care benefit from the federal government have a terrible time finding and paying for child care. It is also essential to provide adequate income support and social services for the unemployed, persons with disabilities and those with family care responsibilities.  These investments will benefit society as a whole” notes Harding.

“More work is also needed when it comes to male violence against women and girls,” adds Harding.  “The problem makes headlines around the world and has been identified as the priority issue for this week’s meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.  It is still far too common here at home. Some women are at higher risks than others for being abused or killed, including our Aboriginal sisters, women with disabilities and young women. We need large-scale public messaging and targeted measures to eliminate and prevent it,” says Harding.

“Now, more than ever, men and women in this province need to unite to demand equality,” states Daniel Légère, CUPE NB President.  “Almost two years have gone by since the Alward Government axed the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women. We are still waiting for the creation of a new independent body with the necessary resources to monitor government action and work for change.  Let’s not forget that the federal government’s attack on social justice activism started with the defunding of women’s advocacy groups in 2006. That has made the situation worse,” concludes Légère.

Laundry closure in nursing homes: another blow to rural New Brunswick

Fredericton ( February 25, 2013):The government’s decision to close laundry facilities in 16 nursing homes in the province is another blow to rural communities in this province.
“Most of the nursing homes affected by this decision are in the northern part of the province.  A region already greatly affected by a poor economy”, said Wayne Brown, President of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Homes Unions (NBCNHU).

“This decision was taken without any consultation with the Union representing those nursing home employees.  Even though the government assures us that the 28 employees working in those laundries will be transferred in other departments of the nursing homes and that no jobs will be lost, we believe that at least 60 employees will be affected. This decision will have a negative effect in the homes.  The Union will be filing grievances to prevent the reduction of hours”, explained Brown.

“We were called to a meeting this morning and informed that the government decided to close the laundries in order to save $600,000 a year.  We were even more surprised to learn that this decision is coming from a government committee which is looking at finding efficiencies.”

“For years, the government has been telling us that it could not interfere with the nursing homes’ administration; that they were at arm-length. Suddenly, the government can decide by the stroke of a pen to eliminate 16 laundry facilities.”

“If the government was seriously looking to find efficiencies in the nursing homes, they should have consulted with CUPE.  For years, we have been telling the government that millions could be saved in making nursing homes a public service; by regionalizing the administration of the homes, centralizing payroll, purchasing pharmaceutical supplies provincially and doing the same for insurance.”

“This decision also means that the laundry will be trucked to other facilities, increasing the carbon footprint,” concluded Brown.

Here is the list of the nursing homes affected by this decision:
Fundy Nursing Home
Jordan Lifecare Centre
Passamaquoddy Lodge
Kennebec Manor
Kings Way Centre
Rocmaura Nursing Home
Manoir Edith B. Pinet
Résidences Inkerman
Résidences Lucien Saindon
Résidences Monsignor Chiasson
Villa des Jardins
Foyer Notre Dame de St. Leonard
Foyer Ste Elizabeth
Manoir de Grand-Sault
Foyer St.-Joseph de St-Basile
Villa Saint-Joseph

CUPE calls for CPP expansion at NB pension summit

Fredericton (February 14, 2013): The future of pension plans is on the agenda at the National Summit on Pension Reform on February 19-20 in Fredericton. Paul Moist, the National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, is one of the speakers, and has a clear message for Premier David Alward and the other attendees: It is time to expand the Canada Pension Plan(CPP).

“Retirement insecurity is a growing national crisis.  More than six in 10 Canadian workers are without a workplace pension plan,” said Moist. A gradual and modest expansion of the CPP is the best way to ensure that happens.”

Many workplace pension plans are experiencing funding challenges, suffering from recession losses and historically low interest rates.

“I commend the province of New Brunswick for hosting this needed discussion on the future of workplace pension plans,” added Moist.  “CUPE is committed to working with employers and governments to meet challenges facing workplace pensions in a fair and reasonable way.”

Moist will also speak about the challenges of using the reforms implemented by New Brunswick as a template for the rest of Canada. “The New Brunswick solution, while arguably appropriate for New Brunswick, is not and will not be “trend-setters” for the rest of Canada.”

Moist will participate in a panel on February 20 at 10:45 a.m. on National Pension issues along with Leo De Bever, CEO of AIMCo, Tom Smee the Senior Vice-President at RBC and Tom Reid from Sun Life Financial.

 

 

CUPE promises real fight against anti-worker legislation

144x352Bargeng-0-0[1]Ottawa (February 6, 2013): At its first national bargaining conference the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) promised to fight against attacks on workers from any level of government, including any attempts to bring in legislation attacking the collective political power of workers.

“Collective bargaining is the most critical function we perform for our membership. We stand ready to fight to defend our right to engage in collective bargaining, and will not back down from any government that seeks to remove our free collective bargaining rights,” said CUPE National President Paul Moist. “We cannot and will not let Stephen Harper silence our voice and we will not accept any form of right to work legislation.”

The timing of this conference comes with mounting attacks on workers’ rights, including Bill 115 in Ontario. Harper government’s first two years of majority government saw the removal of free collective bargaining rights for Canada Post, Air Canada, and CP Rail workers. This was followed by Bill C-377 which placed onerous financial reporting standards on trade unions. Next up will be some form of legislation aimed at silencing workers’ dissent which will severely limit collective action and skew the balance of labour relations in favour of management.

“You do not make gains only at the bargaining table. Labour also needs to get involved in the political arena to change anti-union governments and that is exactly what CUPE members will continue to do at the municipal, provincial and federal levels,” said CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer, Charles Fleury.

“We have the financial resources necessary to continue the fight to protect our collective agreements and public services. We also have the means to participate in electoral battles and we will use them whenever necessary to help elect governments that share our values,” added Fleury.

CUPE’s National Bargaining Conference brought together over 1,000 CUPE members to stand together against attacks on workers. Conference highlights included speakers from the U.S. and Europe presenting on the assault on both basic trade union rights and public services in the aftermath of the global recession.

“Austerity agendas make bargaining tough. But we will continue the fight not just for bargaining rights for ourselves, but for all workers, along with our goal for social justice for all citizens,” concluded Moist

New Brunswick MPs must take their responsibilities

FREDERICTON (February 1, 2013):A Coalition of regional community-base committees is challenging New Brunswick conservative MPs to organize public meetings to explain the EI reform to the thousands of New Brunswickers affected by the latest cuts.

“Federal Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Diane Finley and the New Brunswick conservative MPs are pretending that “these changes are in the best interest of workers, employers and our communities”. Today, we are asking them to explain to New Brunswickers how they will benefit from those changes,” said Patrick Colford from the Miramichi regional Committee.

“New Brunswick MPs have been in the media accusing the regional committees fighting against these EI cuts of giving false information and fear mongering. Today, we are asking them to take their responsibilities and to organize their own public meetings throughout the province.  We are also asking the federal government to publish a public document which would explain, in clear language, what will be the impacts of these changes on workers and their communities,” said Colford.

The Coalition of regional committees is asking the Federal Government to sit down with labour and employers, those who are funding the EI Program, to discuss changes that will really benefit workers, businesses and our communities.

“It is astounding that such sweeping changes were made, through an Omnibus Budget Bill (C-38) without any consultations,” added Pauline Richard from the Kent North regional Committee.

“It is obvious that the Federal Government and our federal MPs are out of touch with our reality. The reality of New Brunswick job market is that the province lost 7,600 full-time and part-time jobs since 2008. The reality of the job market is that between January 2012 and October 2012, there was a monthly average of 35,720 unemployed workers in the province. In the same period, there was a monthly average of 3,830 job vacancies. In order words, for each 1,000 unemployed worker, there were around 10 jobs available. The situation is worse in the winter months. The reality of the job market is that part of our economy is rural and work is seasonal. The real problem is the lack of available jobs and not workers,” added Richard.

“This EI Reform will not only hurt New Brunswick workers and their families but will also have a negative impact on the province’s finances.  According to the Department of Finance, a 10% reduction in EI beneficiaries would result in a loss of 800 jobs by 2016 and a $100 million to the province.”

“These cuts will have a profound and lasting negative impact on workers, their communities and the province,” concluded Pauline Richard.

There are active committees in the following regions:

  • Acadian Peninsula
  • Kent South
  • Kent North
  • Fredericton
  • Miramichi
  • Edmundston
  • St. Stephen
  • Sussex
  • Campbellton
  • Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe
  • Bathurst
  • Saint John

Here are some of the major cuts that have been implemented:

  • Reducing salary by up to 30% of former salary which will result in lower wage and lower future EI revenue.
  • Cutting the Five Weeks Extension Benefits Pilot Project which will result in workers receiving no income for a period of time in Spring commonly referred to as the Black Hole.
  • Modifying the Best 14 Weeks Pilot Project which will reduce EI revenue, especially in the Edmundston-Charlotte area.
  • Implementing a new Working while on Claim Pilot Project (ends August 1, 2015) that will penalize workers who can only get one or two days of work when on EI.
  • Eliminating completely the EI Appeal Board of Referee.

 

CUPE launches new Disability Rights Awarness Campaign

poster-500-en[1]FREDERICTON ( November 29, 2012):Canada’s largest union is launching their new disability rights awareness campaign on December 3. The Canadian Union of Public Employees’ national campaign is “A Solidarity of Abilities”, championed by the union’s Persons with Disabilities National Working Group. December 3rd is the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, established by the United Nations to create awareness, understanding and action for the legal and social rights of persons with disabilities.

“What is the one equality-seeking group anyone could be a member of tomorrow?  Persons with disabilities”, says Stephen Drost, the New Brunswick representative on the National Working Group. “I am very pleased to be the New Brunswick spokesperson for this new campaign. “A Solidarity of Abilities” showcases our members with disabilities who are vital in our workplaces and in our communities. We also want to develop partnerships with community groups that advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. Stay tuned for exciting initiatives in New Brunswick ! ”

“Workers need to know that they have the legal right to have their disability accommodated in the workplace.  It’s a matter of human rights and social justice”, affirms CUPE NB president Daniel Légère.  “Persons with disabilities make great contributions in the workplace. We must do all we can to ensure they can access employment. Our Division executive and the rank and file members on our Equality Committee are pleased to support this important campaign.”

The six-month campaign will raise awareness of disability issues and provide tools to help ensure the rights of workers with disabilities are understood and upheld.

Union asking NB Liquor to reconsider stores closure

FREDERICTON( Septeber 26, 2012 ) :The Union representing NB Liquor employees, CUPE Local 963, is asking the New Brunswick Liquor Corporation to reconsider the closure of two corporate liquor stores scheduled for the New Year.

“We have been informed yesterday that the Corporation will be closing the stores in St. George and Bristol because the repairs on the buildings would be too costly and the rent space would not be a viable option because of the asking price,” said Martha Thompson, President of CUPE Local 963.

“This decision is another blow to the economy of these communities. In total, six full-time and permanent part-time jobs will be lost in the communities. Those employees will be offered the opportunity to transfer to another corporate store. That option will also be available for the casual employees but their working hours will be affected,” explained Thompson.

“These communities are not only losing good paying jobs, they are losing tax revenues as well. We believe this decision is part of the government scheme to privatize NB Liquor. Instead of facing the public backlash, the government is privatizing the Crown Corporation piece by piece.”

“Expanding the number of privately owned and operated agency stores isn’t the best option for New Brunswickers. The agency stores that will replace those two corporate stores will have a limited selection of product and the customer service will be practically non-existent. It seems that rural New Brunswickers don’t deserve the same level of services and selection from NB Liquor than the ones living in larger centres,” concluded Thompson.

CUPE represents over 500 liquor store and warehouse employees across New Brunswick.