Retro Pay – Provincial Government Should Pay Damages to Workers

Fredericton, March 16, 2022 CUPE locals representing Part I of the NB public services (Local 1190, 1251, 1418 and 1840) and CUPE NB held a press conference today. The locals announced they have just filed a formal complaint with the NB Labour and Employment Board to demand immediate repayment of retroactive pay owed to close to more than 4,100 CUPE members (*this number does not include retirees who could be affected by this).

“The Government has failed to meet its own legal obligations under Section 63(1) of the Public Service Labour Relations Act to implement provisions of the new collective agreements within ninety days from the date of their execution. That includes making retroactive payments to workers – that means pay for work already done,” said Stephen Drost, President of CUPE NB.

In their joint complaint, the CUPE locals ask the Labour and Employment Board to declare that the employer has broken the law and order it to do the following:

  1. Immediately implement the provisions of the collective agreements and make the payment of retroactive monies owed to the affected workers;
  2. Immediately provide a detailed breakdown, for each affected worker, of the calculation of the retroactive monies owed to them to ensure no mistakes were made (as many vigilant Local 1840 members discovered their retro pay was riddled with errors).
  3. Immediately pay compensatory damages to the affected workers; and
  4. Immediately pay punitive damages to the affected workers due to the government’s egregious conduct.

“On March 14, during a pre-hearing conference with the Labour Board, we have heard GNB representatives say that they think they it could be until October 2022 until everybody is paid. This is absurd,” said Chris Curran, President of Local 1251.

The Government should have foreseen the need to prepare for eventual retro-pay adjustments. “This was obvious before the strike was even commenced, as the government had let the collective agreements of most locals remain expired for over 4 years,” said Shawna Morton, President of Local 1418.

“In healthcare, where payroll is handled internally and not through Service New Brunswick, they have completed the retro payments for over 9,000 members in Local 1252.  Finance and Treasury Board should have been ready to finish the job on time or in half the time it took in healthcare,” said Brent Wiggins, President of Local 1190.

“Why did they not provide the Service New Brunswick staff who handles the payroll with the proper resources to process it all?” asked Patricia Brewer, President of Local 1840. “Let’s be clear: I don’t blame the Service New Brunswick workers, I blame their employer for setting them up to fail,” she added.

At a hearing before the Labour Board scheduled on Monday, March 21, the CUPE locals will present their arguments in opposition to the employer’s applications in which it seeks an extension of the 90-day deadline for the payment of retroactive monies.  “Every day that goes by is an injustice to workers. We hope for a speedy resolve to this situation,” concluded Drost.

CUPE NB 2022 Convention Congrès 2022 du SCFP N.-B.

Hello,

I’m sure everyone is wondering about convention call, so here is a quick update:)

CUPE NB convention will be held virtually on April 1st and 2nd, 2022.

Registration will be online but directly to Encore, the tech company. Sandy, Steve, Sharon, Simon and I met with them yesterday by zoom and we should receive the updated quote very soon, as some things changed yesterday in regards to the quote we had received. This quote will dictate the price of registration as per our bylaws that state convention will be cost neutral. You will send payment to me at the below address. Please call if you have any questions.

As soon as we receive the info from Encore, the link to registration will be posted on the website and will go out through provincial presidents by email and also by mail.

Any local that didn’t receive resolutions forms by mail from me should please contact me as I don’t have the correct president’s mailing address. Some bounced back although many less than last year.

The provincial presidents all sent out resolutions forms and will do the same with convention call,  But please contact me at the info below if you don’t get it by mail with # of delegates allotted.

I’m working all weekend and have meetings Monday and Tuesday, but will also be working on this as I receive information.

Thank you and have a great week, thanks for all you do!!

Talk soon,

***

Bonjour,

 

  Je suis persuadée que tous se questionnent quant à la convocation au congrès, alors voici une brève mise à jour. 🙂

    Le congrès du SCFP NB aura lieu virtuellement les 1er et 2 avril 2022.  

    L’inscription se fera directement en ligne via l’entreprise technologique Encore.   Sandy, Steve, Sharon, Simon et moi-même avons participé à une rencontre Zoom avec eux hier et devrions recevoir une soumission actualisée bientôt puisque des changements ont été apportés à la soumission reçue auparavant.   Cette soumission déterminera les frais d’inscription selon nos règlements qui prévoient que le congrès n’entraînerait pas de coûts supplémentaires.   Vos paiements devront m’être acheminés à l’adresse indiquée ci-dessous. Veuillez communiquer avec moi pour toute question. 

   Dès réception de l’information d’Encore, le lien pour l’inscription sera affiché sur le site Web et les présidentes/présidents en feront également la distribution par le biais de courriels et par la poste. 

Les sections locales n’ayant pas reçu par la poste les formulaires de résolutions de ma part doivent communiquer avec moi puisque je n’ai pas la bonne adresse postale de la présidente/du président. Certains messages ne sont pas parvenus aux destinataires ; par contre, bien inférieur à l’année dernière. 

   Les présidentes/présidents provinciaux ont distribué les formulaires de résolutions et feront de même avec la convocation au congrès. Mais veuillez communiquer avec moi aux coordonnées ci-dessous si vous ne le recevez pas avec l’attribution de délégués. 

 

   Je travaille toute la fin de semaine et serai en réunion lundi et mardi mais je donnerai également suite à toute information dès que reçue.  

  Merci pour tout ce que vous faites et bonne semaine!

                       A bientôt,

Pension payments overdue: GNB fails to meet its own judicial review deadline

Fredericton, NB, Feb 9, 2022 – CUPE Local 1253, which represents 2500 school district bus drivers, custodians, and trade workers are frustrated by another unnecessary delay from the government to repay money owed to their pension plan.

Back on June 28, 2021, Arbitrator Elizabeth MacPherson ordered Blaine Higgs’s government to begin paying the $69+ million dollars owed to the Local 1253 pension plan. The government waited to the very last minute to file for a judicial review of Ms. MacPherson’s decision. The judicial review was supposed to be heard on Thursday, February 10, 2022, but it got canceled as the Government failed to file the required pre-hearing brief on time.

Excerpt from Arbitrator MacPherson’s decision

“CUPE 1253 filed its documents on time, but Government failed to do so for the judicial review they asked for,” said Iris Lloyd, President of Local 1253. “It’s been seven months already, and they have not yet paid back a cent of what is owed to our members,” added Lloyd.

While a rescheduled date has not been set, this could delay a hearing by months.  “Workers have waited long enough. It’s not acceptable that the government abused procedural timelines to avoid meeting their contractual obligations,” said Lloyd.

In addition to ignoring the arbitrator’s order, the Government has yet to engage meaningfully with CUPE 1253 to settle the expired collective agreement, prolonging the period during which a strike or lockout is possible.

“CUPE members go to work every day in good faith that they will be able to collect the pension they have been promised in retirement. Workers and retirees have upheld our end of the deal for decades by providing our labour and paying our portion of our own pension contributions,” said Lloyd.

Local 1253 informed the government on February 8 that it would not renew the expiring mobility agreement and would not accept that other workers do its bargaining unit work. “During the past month, custodians replaced teachers in the classrooms to assist with COVID-19-related issues as they had agreed to assist since the beginning of the pandemic. This will end with the expiry of the mobility agreement,” said Lloyd.

“Education workers in this province are tired of turning the other cheek. They deserve better from this Premier. He can delay and delay, but we are confident the court will uphold the arbitration decision,” concluded Lloyd.

Our fight for retirement security continues

Fredericton, Feb 4, 2022 The fight for retirement security remains a top priority for CUPE New Brunswick. CUPE and CUPE locals 946, 963, 1190, 1418, 1866, 1251, 2745, 3339, and 5026 continue to be added party plaintiffs to the constitutional challenge in PIPSC v. Province of New Brunswick; a case about upholding the Charter-protected right to free collective bargaining.

When Blaine Higgs was Finance Minister under Alward, he transformed the defined-benefit pension plan for thousands of public front-line workers into a more volatile and riskier “shared risk” plan. “The imposition of the shared risk plan means members pay more in contributions and must now retire at a more advanced age. On top of that, there is a loss of guaranteed indexing and a reduction in base pension amounts,” denounces Steve Drost, President of CUPE NB.

“The legislation unilaterally converted existing defined-benefit plans, and worst of all, it prohibited the union from trying to negotiate improvements through collective bargaining,” he added.

CUPE NB notes how this pension plan model shifted the risk of bearing financial market volatility almost entirely onto plan members and eliminated the promise that our earned pensions can’t be retroactively reduced. “By imposing this on Locals, we firmly believe the Government of New Brunswick has violated our right to free collective bargaining, and we will continue to pursue justice for our affected members,” said Drost.

“In addition to the PIPSC legal challenge, we will continue to support CUPE 1253, CUPE 2745 and the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Homes, whose defined benefit pension plans have been systematically underfunded by the Government of New Brunswick,” said Drost.

After a career in public service, CUPE members in all sectors can unfortunately only expect a very modest pension in retirement. “We know that having an adequate and secure workplace pension plan is what separates seniors with financial security from those experiencing poverty. Whether in the courts or in the streets, CUPE will always fight for workers to have a secure, adequate, and predictable retirement income,” concluded Drost.

A permanent wage top-up is required in community care

– Earlier this week, Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch announced a 2-month (8 weeks) wage top-up for the community care workers who provide services to vulnerable residents and who earn less than $18 per hour.

“The $3 dollar wage top-up will help folks like me pay for groceries and heating, but it should be made permanent,” said Laurie Anderson, President of the New Brunswick Community Service Unions (NBCSU)

Today, the average wage for home support, special care home, and transition-house workers is around $15.50 an hour.

“There are thousands of workers, mostly women, who do underpaid essential work, and they need long-term support,” said Steve Drost, President of CUPE NB.

“Employers and Government must ensure that these top-ups go to the front lines, and are not rolled into general operating costs. During the previous adjustment, too many employers used the extra funding to avoid bargaining wage improvements,” denounced Drost.

In a press release, Minister Fitch said the top-up was an emergency measure, which should end on March 14th. “I share the Coalition for Pay Equity’s hope on the matter: we need to see a permanent solution inscribed in the March provincial budget,” concluded Anderson.

The NBCSU represents over 500 workers in the community care sector throughout New Brunswick. This includes workers in home support, group homes, special care homes, transition houses, and more. 

 

Inaction on housing and power costs has gone on for too long

January 12, 2022 -As a cold snap is hitting New Brunswick, residents learned the NB Government had just cut the New Brunswick Home Energy Assistance rebate program.

“While far from enough, the rebate for low-income families was about the only help the provincial government provided to folks during winter,” said Steve Drost, President of CUPE NB.

In times where the cost of living is going up, the government should be doing more to help the working poor, not less.  “The fact that over 33 000 New Brunswickers had to rely on the meager $100 energy rebate is frightening: power and heating costs have only gone up from when the rebate program was started in 2016,” added Drost.

Since the pandemic began, housing supports have been neglected by the Higgs Government. For example, there have been more and more residents denouncing their rents going up by 30 to 60 percent. “We know that these stories are not isolated. It has been years of outrageous and unaffordable rent increases, and yet the government has ignored calls for rent control – the only thing that will control rents,” said Drost.

“Instead, we have a Cabinet that has no remorse in cutting the few programs workers have and prefers giving away more than a hundred million dollars in power subsidies to pulp and paper mills,” said Drost.

CUPE NB calls on the NB Provincial Government to enact real housing protection laws to help workers. “If New Brunswick had real tenant protections and recognized housing as a human right, residents would not be in the tough position of relying on the energy rebate program,” said Drost.  

Education Workers Donate $35,000 to Hungry Schoolchildren

CUPE Local 2745 has donated $35,000 to food programs for the schoolchildren of New Brunswick.

“As Educational support staff workers, we are very concerned by the high rates of child poverty in our province. That’s why we donated $5,000 to each of the seven school districts in New Brunswick for food programs,” said Theresa McAllister, President of CUPE Local 2745.

Nearly 21.7% of children in New Brunswick live in poverty, compared to the Canadian average of 17.6%. According to the Hunger Count 2021, in New Brunswick, a total of 20,408 visits to food banks were reported, with 6,544 of those visits involving children.

Education workers see the effects of poverty and crisis on kids and families every day at work. The donation was the first decision taken immediately by the Local once it formally signed a new 5-year collective agreement with the government.

Before and during the lockout, parents supported us because they knew how CUPE workers fight for fairness and for a stronger New Brunswick. What we do today is just another way of giving back to the communities and to the children we care for every day,” said Theresa McAllister.

We hope our donations will make a difference and incite the provincial government to take more ambitious measures to end child poverty,” concluded McAllister.

CUPE Local 2745 represents more than 4500 members such as Educational Assistants, School Administrative assistants & School Clerks, School Library Workers, District Administrative Support Workers, School Intervention Workers, Speech Therapy Assistants, and Student Attendants.

 

10 New Collective Agreements Ratified

Fredericton November 19, 2021 Members of 10 CUPE Provincial Locals have a ratified new collective agreement with the NB Government. Locals 963, 1190, 1251, 1252, 1418, 1840, 1866, 2745, 5017 & 5026 have ratified the tentative agreement presented to them this week. Local 1253, representing more than 1900 school district custodians, bus drivers, maintenance, and trades workers rejected their tentative agreement.

“The new five-year contract is the result of a long struggle, culminating in mass strikes, for wages that go above the cost of living,” said Stephen Drost, President of CUPE NB. “Nothing in this deal was given to us kindly, it was earned through the members’ mobilization and their resolve on the picket lines,” he added.

In this deal, members will see a general economic increase of 2% and a 25 cents per hour adjustment at the start of every year of the contract. As the average CUPE member in NB makes $21.50 an hour, the 25 cents an hour represents more than 1% for every year of the contract. “The overall agreement stands above a 15% adjustment over 5 years and stands at 17.9% for the lowest-paid classifications,” said Drost.

Casual workers who were unjustly receiving less than 80% of the pay of what a full-time worker earned for the same work, will now get 100% of the pay.

Back in December 2020, Higgs wanted to impose a wage freeze, followed by 3 years of 1%. When Centralized Bargaining began in August 2021, he moved to 8.5% over 5 years. “Through public pressure and mobilization, Higgs had to adjust,” said Drost.

Local 1253 leadership hopes to return to the bargaining table to settle the issue of pensions which was at the heart of the matter when members voted down the tentative agreement.

“CUPE NB and all provincial CUPE Locals support Local 1253 members in their efforts to achieve a better contract. I hope they can get a satisfactory resolve at the bargaining table in the coming days,” concluded Drost.