Health care workers rally in support of a new Health Accord

ROTHESAY: Members of CUPE Local 1252, the New Brunswick Council of Hospital Unions (NBCHU), rallied in front of the office of the Minister of Health, Ted Flemming, calling upon the Alward government to continue to push its federal counterpart for the renewal of the Health Accord.

“This week the 10-year Health Accord came to an end and we believe the effect will be devastating for healthcare delivery in this province”, said the President of the NBCHU, Norma Robinson.

“New Brunswick relies heavily on federal funding to offer healthcare services throughout the province. With the refusal of the Federal Government to renew the Accord, the province stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming years.”

“Increasing transfer payments to the provinces by six per cent a year for the next three years like Ottawa intends to do is not going to cut it, especially for a province like New Brunswick.”

“Already, the healthcare system is being stretched to the limit in the province. Over the years, hospitals have been closed, communities in rural areas lost health services, and the level of services has been reduced. Without the renewal of the Health Accord, we will probably see more hospitals and beds closure and further reduction of services and staff, especially in smaller communities. With an aging population, this is a very scary scenario.”

“Premier Alward said that him along with other premiers stood up against the federal government’s decision. We are asking Premier Alward and Minister Flemming today to make the renewal of the Health Accord the number one priority for this government. New Brunswickers can’t afford to receive less health services”, concluded Robinson.

World Water Day 2014: Back the tap and keep water public

March 22 is World Water Day – a day to step up our work defending public water and wastewater services. We can all take action in our workplaces and in our neighbourhoods. Here are a few ways:

March 22 is World Water Day – a day to step up our work defending public water and wastewater services. We can all take action in our workplaces and in our neighbourhoods. Here are a few ways:water-day-2014-web-banner

  • Take action on bottled water in your local, workplace or community. March 19 is Bottled Water Free Day. Visit for action ideas, and to take the tap water pledge.
  • Do you work on campus? The Coalition for Bottled Water Free Communities is doing a reality check on campuses that have announced a ban on bottled water. Check the Polaris Institute’s list to see if your campus has announced a ban. Then help us track whether administrators are living up to their word by completing this short survey.
  • The Harper Conservatives are using infrastructure funding to force more municipalities into water and wastewater P3s. There is a better way. Learn about and share the Alternative Federal Budget. The AFB is a financial blueprint for maintaining, upgrading and expanding municipal water and wastewater services without privatization. The AFB also outlines concrete steps to ensure safe, clean drinking water in First Nation communities.
Together we can fight privatization, and promote water as a public service and a human right.

Canadian Blood Services workers vote for a strike

Saint John (March 17, 2014) – The Canadian Blood Services workers, members of CUPE Local 1655, have rejected their Employer’s latest offer and voted yesterday in favor of a strike action.

“The workers rejected the latest contract offer since it did not adequately address the rates of pay and the issue of the hours of work”, explained Mike Davidson, CUPE representative.

“The Canadian Blood Services employ workers all over the country and we believe that the workers in New Brunswick should be paid at the same rate as their counterparts in the Atlantic Provinces who have regular hours of work.”

“The Employer is refusing to negotiate wages. Instead, the Employer wants to have the employees’ wages tied to hospital rates of pay.”

“The work of the Canadian Blood Services employees is different than any hospital job.  Our members are travelling all over NB, up to 72 hours away from home, setting up blood donor clinics, ensuring the safety of the donor and the safety of the patients who rely upon it. Their jobs are critically unique to any hospital job and therefore you cannot compare apples to oranges”, added Davidson.

The workers will be in a legal strike position as of tomorrow. CUPE Local 1655 has requested another meeting with the Employer who has agreed to meet next Thursday March 27th in hopes of negotiating a better deal for these workers.  Until then, the Union has agreed not to withdraw their services.

CUPE Local 1655 members have been without a collective agreement since January 1, 2012.  CUPE Local 1655 represents almost 40 phlebotomists, clinic assistants and drivers.


Fredericton – On this International Women’s Day, CUPE New Brunswick calls for coordinated action to address women’s inequality in New Brunswick.

“Women are better educated and more active in the paid workforce than ever before, but are still not on equal footing with men,” said Marilyn MacCormack, Chair of the CUPE NB Women’s Committee. “Women experience disadvantages that are interconnected, from lower earnings and higher risk of poverty to bigger share of unpaid care giving and limited access to political power. Then there’s the terrible vulnerability to violence at the hands of men.”

“There are many roadblocks to women’s full participation in economic, social and political life,” explained MacCormack. “Entrenched sexist attitudes show up in the undervaluation of jobs traditionally done by women, not to mention the way things work in career advancement and electoral politics.  Far too many men still view women as possessions to be controlled through verbal, physical and sexual abuse. We need public policies and practices that address all aspects of women’s lives,” she concluded.

“Our provincial government should integrate gender-based analysis in all its work and invite input from the members of the Voices of New Brunswick Women Consensus-Building Forum,” said CUPE NB President Daniel Légère.  “Appointments to this new body were announced just last month by the Minister Responsible for Women’s Equality.”

“We are concerned that some voices may be missing at the table. Where are the organizations representing immigrant women and Aboriginal women living in First Nations communities?  Organized labour was also left out, even though nearly one in three New Brunswick women workers are union members,” added Légère.

“Will the Forum have the independence and the resources necessary to work for change? The Advisory Council on the Status of Women was a rallying force until it was axed three years ago by the Alward government. Critical distance from government is a must, especially given women’s chronic underrepresentation in our Legislative Assembly.  In this election year, candidates and parties will be questioned about their commitment to action on women’s equality concerns,” he concluded.

International Women’s Day – It’s time to give NB women services in every region

Fredericton – The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) demands government intervention to ensure that crisis housing services for women and children victims of violence be guaranteed around the clock in the province.

“For the past year, service interruptions have been happening on and off at the transition house in the Chaleur region. Women fleeing situations of family violence who show up at the Maison de Passage in Bathurst could find the doors locked. A woman in distress also runs a very high risk of having to leave a message on an answering machine when she calls the transition house’s crisis line” said Vicky Smith, CUPE Union Representative.

“Unfortunately, the board of directors has decided to reduce the hours of service when there are no residents in the house. This situation is simply unacceptable for the workers and for the women and children in need of a roof over their heads.”

“This week, many events are organized to celebrate International Women Day.  It is difficult to celebrate when women and children victims of violence can’t access the services they need.

“We have brought the problem to the attention of both the Minister of Women’s Equality and the Minister of Social Development who share responsibility for violence programming and service funding. The Bathurst transition house situation shows that women still have a long way to go to achieve true economic and social equality.”

“The recent discovery near Moncton of the body of a murdered young Inuk woman, Loretta Saunders, reminds us that violence affects women of all ages and origins.   Once more, we are asking the government when these vital services will be restored for vulnerable women in the region?” concluded Smith.

Provincial Seed Centre Privatized

FREDERICTON:  Employees at the Bon Accord Elite Seed Potato Centre in Perth Andover, a provincial-owned facility, have been given their pink slip this morning.

“The workers were called in and informed that as of Friday this week, they will be out of a job”, said Andy Hardy, President of CUPE Local 1190 which represents the workers at the centre.

The centre employed on a regular basis 10 workers, and during potato planting and harvesting season, an additional 30 workers.

The farm is a completely self-contained elite seed production unit which produces 35 variety of potato seeds for about 20 seed producers in the province.

“Premier David Alward is doing exactly what his predecessor Shawn Graham tried to do with NB Power, sell public assets without  any mandate”, added Hardy.

“This centre in operation since the 1960s is worth millions of dollars.  Bon Accord housed a greenhouse, 300 hectares of cultivated fields, a climate potato warehouse and various pieces of equipment,” said Hardy.

“The government is selling the Centre to Potatoes New Brunswick.  We would like to know how much the government will get from that sale.”

“Having an agricultural background and being a former minister of Agriculture, Premier Alward should know how important it is to have a public seed potato growing facility which guarantees a disease-free and affordable crop to the farmers.

“Even worst, this latest decision from the Alward Government is another blow to rural New Brunswick; once more, rural communities are losing some good paying jobs.”

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.


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.