Salvation Army’s Special Care Home might close at the end of the month

Saint John: The city of Saint John might lose another Special Care Home at the end of the month because of the lack of provincial funding.

The Union representing the workers at the Salvation Army Centre of Hope, CUPE local 4780, was informed last week that the four days of negotiation scheduled, were being postponed until further notice.

‘The employees of the Salvation Army were told that the building housing the Home and other services such as the homeless shelter, is in need of important repairs and that the facility would close at the end of February if they did not receive financial help from the provincial government’, explained Marcos Salib, CUPE Servicing Representative for Local 4780.

‘The employees were shocked when they were told they could be out of a job in two weeks, if the Salvation Army didn’t receive funding that would enable them to operate the Group Home for the next three years’, explained Salib.

‘With the closure of the Special Care Home not only 35 employees would lose their job, but it would leave 34 residents without a roof over their heads. The saddest part is that 12 homeless persons won’t have a place to sleep at night, in the middle of the winter. In addition to the 40 beds reserved for the special care home, the Centre of Hope also house a 27-bed shelter for the homeless’, explained Salib.

‘This situation at the Centre of Hope illustrates once more the need for a strong financial commitment from the government for community services such as; group homes, homeless shelters, special care homes, and transition houses. The workers who provide those community services are receiving low wages and practically no benefits; because the operation of those services is stretched with money they receive from the province, they do not know if they will have a job from year to year.’

‘These agencies provide a home for adults in our community that struggle with mental illness, other disabilities and social problems. For those people, the community residences, group homes, special care home and shelters are their homes and it’s time for Government to made a financial commitment to help the most vulnerable of our society’, concluded Salib.

Letter to the editor

In a post-hoc effort to stem ongoing criticism of his pension policy, Premier Alward sent inscribed copies of Jim Leech & Jacquie McNish’s recent book, The Third Rail: Confronting Our Pension Failures to every MLA in the legislature.
In moderate-sounding language, the authors of The Third Rail argue that we should be “redefining” defined benefit plans rather than abandoning them. Pension plans should be made “more flexible” because “fully guaranteed benefits are no longer possible.” Plan members should simply “share” more risk with employers.
On its surface, this language sounds as if the authors are calling for pension plans to be tinkered with rather than dismantled entirely. They appear to be calling for halfway measures and fair compromises that may seem reasonable to many readers.
It’s hardly surprising that Alward was so taken with the book: his government used a similar language of moderation in the public debate over the forced conversion of the defined-benefit public sector plan (PSSA) to a “Shared Risk” pension plan. The government said that pensions weren’t being abandoned in its new “Shared Risk” plans – instead, they claimed to be taking these steps to protect pensions. They claimed that, in this new model, “risk and rewards are shared between retirees, active members and government.” The New Brunswick media echoed this middle-of-the-road messaging almost verbatim, repeatedly reporting the false notion that under these new plans, employers and employees “split the costs when the plan performs poorly.”
However, simply calling a plan “Shared Risk” does not mean that risk is actually shared between employers and members in this new model. The plan documents reveal that active and retired members will bear nearly all of the risk in a Shared Risk plan. Employers, on the other hand, are largely shielded from risk.
If a Shared Risk plan is underfunded, the only risk faced by employers is a very modest, and capped, increase in their contribution rate. Plan members face this same risk.
All additional funding pressure, if any exists, is relieved by automatic and unrestricted reduction of pension benefits, including potentially suspending cost-of-living increases for retirees, or even reductions of base pension benefits.
This is hardly a system that “splits the cost.” Employers face a limited risk of paying a bit more in contributions. Plan members face that same risk, but they also solely bear the more serious and open-ended risk of receiving a lot less. This is a complete upending of traditional defined-benefit plans – a point obscured by the moderate tone of The Third Rail and the NB government. While employers previously recorded pension liabilities on their balance sheets in DB plans, they will record no liabilities under the Shared Risk model, and many may try to completely write off their existing liabilities when converting to Shared Risk.
Government has repeatedly obscured this crucial point. As they sold a pension model that shifts risk to plan members, they told plan members that conversion somehow made their pensions “more secure” and that “Shared Risk” provides “much stronger protection” of pensions.
The government did nothing to correct the oft-repeated references in the media that the Shared Risk model features guaranteed base benefits, that only cost-of-living increases had been made conditional and that deficits are shared equally between workers and employers. In fact, there are no benefit guarantees (even for base benefits) going forward and risk is primarily borne by workers.
A recent report from the NB Auditor General revealed what we believe is the government’s real goal in this conversion. The AG reports that the province has been pushing for a liability-free accounting treatment for the Shared Risk plans since, according to the province, “the risks inherent in the plans are largely borne by the employees.” When the government met with CUPE representatives, they revealed their intention to, with the stroke-of-a-pen, eliminate nearly $5 billion of accrued PSSA pension liabilities from their books, and ensure that no pension liabilities of any kind will appear going forward. Yet members are told this somehow makes their pensions “more secure”
This is not a fix arrived at through moderate tinkering: this is the wholesale abandonment of the defined benefit model. CUPE was—and still is—fully prepared to sit down with government to look at different ways to address the government’s concerns about pension plan costs that do not involve completely walking away from the defined benefit model. Where necessary, CUPE members across the country have demonstrated a real willingness to make difficult decisions in pension bargaining – to actually “share risk.” However, government denied our request to explore alternatives, invoked closure, and rushed to legislate the unprecedented conversion of the PSSA.
It’s odd that The Third Rail claims to want to save defined benefit plans by promoting alternatives like “Shared Risk” that actually have no defined benefits. It’s equally odd that Alward says plan members’ benefits are made “more secure” as significant risks are forcibly shifted from employers to members.
It’s little wonder that The Third Rail is a favourite of Alward’s. The book, like his government, uses moderate-sounding rhetoric to effectively obscure the truly significant and utterly unprecedented upending of pension plan commitments to past, current and future workers.

Daniel Légère
CUPE NB President

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Dear Sisters and Brothers,
On December 6th, 1989, a man armed with a hunting rifle entered the University of Montréal’s engineering faculty and opened fire on women, claiming he was fighting feminism.  He murdered 14 women, mostly young engineering students, before killing himself. The only non-student, Maryse Laganière, was a CUPE member who worked at the faculty.

As we mark the anniversary of that horrific event, we remember the many women who to this day are injured or killed throughout Canada, often at the hands of their intimate partners.  “First mourn. Then work for change.”  That is the call to action inscribed on the December 6th monument in Riverview.

Women in our province, like women throughout the country, continue to flee abusive homes, often with young children, and take refuge in shelters. Sometimes their violent partner finds  them in their workplaces.  Poverty and discrimination still trap far too many women in violent relationships. The current austerity climate has had a devastating impact on Canadian workers, including many women who have lost jobs and who have difficulty in accessing Employment Insurance benefits.

Aboriginal women are much more likely to suffer from violence than other women. The Native Women’s Association of Canada has identified more than 600 missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls across Canada, and the violence continues. At the 2013 CUPE NB Convention, members adopted a resolution demanding that the federal government establish a national public inquiry and an action plan to address this tragic situation.

Government action is urgently needed to address the root causes of violence, part of the bigger picture of women’s inequality. The New Brunswick government provides some funding for front-line victims services and awareness-raising initiatives, but lacks a master plan for achieving true economic and social equality for women.  With no national action plan in place to end violence against women, the federal government continues to defund advocacy organizations that have provided a voice for women and the most vulnerable in Canada.

What can you do to end violence against women?  Ask your MLA and MP what actions are underway to improve the situation of women and girls and how they will track progress on gender equality. Stand up and speak out against verbal and physical abuse wherever it happens. Treating others with respect sends a powerful message, particularly if you are male. Support anti-violence campaigns and groups working in your communities. Participate in the national survey on the impacts of violence against women, on workers, and the workplace that will be launched by the Canadian Labour Congress in December 2013.

Everyone is welcome to participate in the December 6th events organized across New Brunswick:

Shippagan :  Commemorative Walk, Kiosks, Christmas Lunch, etc. – December 4th; Kiosks from 10 a.m. at the Shippagan campus of the Université de Moncton;  Walk from 12:20 to 1 p.m. (leaves from main entrance of the campus). For more information, contact Karen Lanteigne, phone (506) 395-7632.

Bathurst: Commemorative Walk & Action To End Violence December 6th, noon. From Holy Family Church parking lot to Bathurst Youth Center.  For more information, contact Soleil Thériault, phone (506) 545-8952.

Miramichi: Commemorative ceremony –  December 6th, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.,  NBCC Miramichi, 80 University Ave.  For more information, contact Patty Michaud, Domestic Violence Outreach Services, phone (506) 778-6496.

Fredericton:

Candlelighting Ceremony –  December 6th, 8 a.m. – 8:30 a.m., , Chancery Place, 675 King St.  Organized by the Women’s Equality Branch, Government of NB.

Commemorative CeremonyDecember 6th, starting at noon at the University of New Brunswick – Fredericton, upstairs in the Student Union Ballroom.

Riverview: December 6th, beginning at 6:30 p.m., gathering at Father Dan Bohan Centre, 5 Fatima Drive, next to Riverview Town Hall, followed by a candlelight vigil and laying of roses at the monument at Caseley Park. Organized by the December 6th Committee of Moncton and District Labour Council. For more information, phone (506) 852-9609.

St. Andrews: An Hour of Remembrance and Hope – December 6th, from 7 p.m., Wesley United Church, 77 William St., St. Andrews. Organized by the Charlotte County Abuse Prevention Network. For further information, phone Charlotte County Community Outreach at (506) 469-5544.

 

 

 

 

New Brunswickers need to speak out to save health care

MONCTON: The Union representing Health Care workers in New Brunswick, CUPE Local 1252, is worried about the impact of the recent budget cuts and what the next round of budget restriction will have on the delivery of health care in the province.

“We have been informed that the Health Authorities will slash another 1% from their budgets in the coming year.  How deep do the cuts have to be before the citizens of New Brunswick realize they need to speak out to save healthcare?” asked Norma Robinson, the President of the New Brunswick Council of Hospitals Unions, CUPE Local 1252.

“What will be the impact on patient care of these new cuts? What services will be impacted by those cuts.  What closures are we going to see?  New Brunswickers deserve to have these questions answered”, said Robinson.

“The employer has implemented a new nursing model on long term care units and is currently doing studies on the oncology and surgical units; these changes will be applied in early 2014. What will be the impact to patient care when these cuts happen?”

“All these changes have an effect on the workers who deliver the services.  We are currently seeing an increase in the Workers Compensation claims from injured employees who are forced to work alone due to staffing reductions.

“Furthermore, the Department of Health is currently looking at contracting out of Management of the Food Service; Environmental Services and Porters; what does this mean for the system?  Will we see more frozen food systems being implemented? Will those in hospital beds being served food which was frozen months before?  Is this the food New Brunswickers deserve when they are sick and dying in an hospital bed?”

“We have requested information from the Department of Health on the cost to deliver these services today and to date have not been provided this information; why has this not been provided?  Where is the cost savings to contract services to companies outside New Brunswick when we currently have individuals within the system who are trained to provide this service efficiently and effectively?”

“We need to keep health care services public; publically delivered health care is the most cost effective service”, concluded Robinson.

More than 100 members of CUPE Local 1252 are meeting in Moncton this week for their annual meeting.

List of Massmembership meeting

Sisters and Brothers,

Doing mass membership meetings this fall was a commitment Brother Black and I made to our members when we went around the Province last year.

The two certainties at this point for the agenda are:

1) The unite for fairness campaign and the attacks organized Labour is facing from the Federal Conservative Government

2) The attacks at our bargaining table from our Provincial Conservative Government And our plan to deal with both. We committed to keeping the talking part of these meetings to 45 min. And then open the floor to the members.

Any Locals that have ongoing campaigns are encouraged to bring to these meetings and add to the distribution tables. Also a reminder to bring food bank items for the local area food banks.

Daniel Légère
President CUPE NB

List of Massmembership meeting

Negotiate! Don’t legislate public sector pensions

FREDERICTON: The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in New Brunswick is calling upon the Alward government to slow down the implementation of the “Shared Risk” model for the Public Service Superannuation Act (PSSA).

“Last week, we met with government officials and indicated to them that our members had concerns and questions about this new model that needs to be considered before it is legislated”, declared CUPE NB President Daniel Légère.

“CUPE simply wants the Alward government to take a pause in its legislation and discuss the many options available to preserve the defined benefit nature of the PSSA and improve its funding”, explained Légère.

“We strongly believe that Defined Benefit Pension Plans are the best and most efficient way to provide a decent, secure and predictable retirement income for the workers in New Brunswick and across Canada. However, CUPE recognizes that some pension plans are facing larger challenges then others.  The “Shared Risk” model was developed by a government task force working with other unions, including CUPE, to address critical problems with the province’s health care workers’ pension plan. CUPE, however, made it perfectly clear to the Alward government – this was not a one size fits all fix for tackling short-term pension challenges.”

“We have never said that the “status quo” is the only option for the PSSA plan. But we also can’t stand idly by as the Alward government tries to shed pension liabilities at the expense of public sector workers’ pensions.”

“We are fully prepared to work with the province in tackling the surmountable challenges facing the PSSA plan, and find options that don’t transfer all the risks onto workers and retirees”, concluded Légère.

 

Long service employees suffer as the door locks to their workplace

MONCTON:  The Union representing health care workers, CUPE Local 1252, is asking the government to stop bleeding health care services in the province.

“Today, the laundry services at the Moncton Hospital and the Tracadie-Sheila Hospital

Norma Robinson during a press conference at the Moncton Hospital concerning the closure of the laundry services at the Moncton hospital and the Tracadie-Sheila Hospital.

Norma Robinson during a press conference at the Moncton Hospital concerning the closure of the laundry services at the Moncton hospital and the Tracadie-Sheila Hospital.

are closing.  This is a very sad day for the long service employees in those two facilities,” said Norma Robinson, President of CUPE Local 1252, the New Brunswick Council of Hospital Unions.

“The laundry services in the Moncton Hospital have been operating for 70 years.   At that hospital, 22 employees are losing their jobs; all of them have at least 25 years of services.  Where do you get another job when you have been working for the same employer all your life?”

“The laundry services at the Tracadie-Sheila Hospital have been there for 50 years.  Eleven people are losing their jobs today; those are all long dedicated service employees.  What is going to happen to those families?  Are they expected to go work in laundry in Fort McMurray?”

“In September, other health care workers received their layoff notice; many of them worked in long-term care units. Now, the government is moving ahead with plans to privatize the management of non-clinical services in hospitals, such as food and cleaning operations.  If this plan goes ahead, more workers will lose their jobs and we will see decent paying jobs replaced by minimum wage jobs.”

“It’s time New Brunswickers send a strong message to this government that Health Care is an important service, especially with our aging population.  We need to protect the health services we have in rural communities as well as the urban centers. It’s time to stop the bleeding of health services”, concluded Robinson.

Rural communities hit one more time!

CHIPMAN: The New Brunswick Health Department and Ambulance New Brunswick, the company managing ambulance services in the province, seem to be more concerned about balancing their budget sheet than the life of rural New Brunswickers.

The Union representing the Paramedics, CUPE Local 4848, was informed today that next month, the night services in the Chipman/Minto/Grand Lake area will be reduced from four ambulances to three.

“Reducing the night services to three ambulances will endanger the lives of the people living in those communities.  The paramedics are the only medical services available at night in that area.  There is no hospital anymore and the community health center is closed at night.  The paramedics are the only ones who can provide the first response service”, explained Trent Piercy, CUPE 4848 President.

“We are especially concerned because we have a mill operating 24 hours, seven days a week in Chipman.  During the winter time, the roads in rural areas are dangerous and it increases the response time of the paramedics.

This decision will not only impact the Chipman area, it will have a ripple effect in the entire region, down to Fredericton.  When an ambulance will be dispatched out of the area, another emergency vehicle will have to be moved from somewhere else and so on. “

“For the last few years, rural communities have been hit hard by budget reductions.  If the Minister of Health wants to put care back into healthcare, slashing ambulances services is surely not the way to do it”, concluded Piercy.

CUPE celebrates 50th anniversary

QUÉBEC: The Canadian Union of Public Employees is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week at its biennial convention, being held October 21 – 25 in Québec City.

Paul Moist, national president of CUPE, welcomed over 3,000 delegates, staff and guests to the five-day gathering.

“This week we celebrate five decades of accomplishments to make Canada a better place for workers and to make our communities a better place to live for all Canadians,” said Moist in his address to the convention.

“We have much to be proud of and much to celebrate, but we will also be planning and preparing for the work ahead,” said Moist. “By reconnecting with our members and working together we can build on our past to strengthen pensions, fight for decent wages and build a fairer Canada for everyone.”

Also addressing the convention today was Charles Fleury, national secretary-treasurer.

“Our union is on a solid foundation. We have the resources to stand up for our members and all Canadian workers,” said Fleury in his speech to convention delegates. “Over the coming days, you will set our priorities for the next two years knowing we are in it for the long term to build a stronger fighting team inside CUPE and beyond. You will set our course to fairness.”

Speakers at the convention will include Thomas Mulcair, leader of the official opposition and the NDP, Rosa Pavanelli, general secretary of Public Service International, and Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Council. There will also be a thought provoking panel discussion on re-inventing the labour movement.

The national biennial convention is the key decision making body for CUPE, Canada’s largest union with over 627,000 members.

St. Joseph’s Hospital put balanced budget before patient meal

Saint John: The Union representing the workers at the St. Joseph’s Hospital in Saint John, CUPE Local 1252, is appalled by the management’s decision to cut on snacks served to seniors in the evening in order to balance its annual budget.

“The employees have been instructed to cut on the food served at night on three floors where approximately 60 seniors are waiting for a nursing home bed”, explained Ralph McBride, CUPE Servicing Representative.

“The management has decided to put the seniors on a diet in order to make up for the $16,000 they overspent in the last three years.”

“From now on, the employees on those three floors will only be allowed a limited amount of milk per day and a package of 12 cookies to be shared amongst 21 seniors on each floor.  The collation at night will now be milk / juice and one cookie or a toast per night but not both.  Nutritional snacks like yogurt and cheese will no longer be served to seniors unless it is a special order request for patient needs”, said McBride.

“Furthermore, we have been informed that if a patient doesn’t eat its lunch, to put the meal aside and give it to the patient later.  Are we now going to serve food that has been sitting there for hours to patients?”

“Recently, Health minister Ted Flemming said it was time to put care back into healthcare.  Hospitals reducing food access to seniors is not putting care back to healthcare. It’s time for the minister to walk the talk.  If he could afford to pay the CEOs of Horizon and Vitality Health Authority a combined salary of $675,000 per year, surely he can find the money to pay for nutritional snacks for our hospitalized seniors”, concluded McBride.