Nursing Home Workers File Lawsuit Against GNB

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the New Brunswick Nurses’ Union (NBNU), and the New Brunswick Union (NBU) have filed a joint lawsuit against the provincial government. Filed with the Court of King’s Bench, the nursing home workers’ lawsuit alleges that the Essential Services in Nursing Homes Act (ESNHA) is unconstitutional because it still denies nursing home workers of any meaningful collective bargaining process.

In 2019, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal declared the ESNHA unconstitutional because it prevented nursing home workers from exercising their right to engage in an effective strike without providing an alternative mechanism, such as binding arbitration. In their unanimous ruling, the judges gave the government six months to amend the legislation. At the last minute, and without consulting any of the unions that represent nursing home workers, Premier Higgs introduced amendments to the legislation, which makes binding arbitration available in theory, but unavailable in practice. Today, New Brunswick is the only province that restricts access to binding arbitration for essential workers in this way.

With the new ESNHA, the lawsuit alleges the government acted in bad faith and that it has failed to respect previous court decisions.

“The government is still unjustly depriving nursing home workers of any effective means of resolving a collective bargaining impasse. This is nothing more than an attempt to keep workers’ wages low, while they are struggling with the housing crisis and cost-of-living increases,” said CUPE NB President Stephen Drost.

At the same time, courts had been clear when they ruled that access to binding arbitration was required to counterbalance the limits the government was placing on workers’ right to strike. This right is protected as part of the freedom of association guaranteed by section 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Time and again, instead of working in good faith with unions, this government has sought to restrict workers’ rights and treat them with disrespect,” said NBU President Susie Proulx-Daigle. “Nursing home workers care about the residents. Instead of looking at ways to improve the system for the good of everyone, the government keeps looking for ways to maintain the status quo or make the conditions worse. Our seniors and workers deserve better.”

“Nurses working in nursing homes are working short all the time and this government’s continued disrespect is making challenging working conditions even more difficult to handle,” said Paula Doucet, President of the New Brunswick Nurses Union. “This government continues to underscore how little they respect nurses and all other unionized workers.”

In New Brunswick nursing homes, CUPE represents more than 4000 workers, NBNU represents over 600 workers and NBU represents more than 441 workers.

Correctional Staff Encouraged by Presumptive PTSD Legislation Plan

Fredericton, NB – CUPE Local 1251, representing over 600 members mainly working in provincial correctional facilities in New Brunswick, welcomes the recent announcement regarding the potential addition of correctional officers to the list of workers benefiting from presumptive post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) legislation. WorkSafeNB has just launched a public consultation to seek input on whether the government should pursue a legislative change under the Workers’ Compensation Act that would provide a presumptive clause for correctional officers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) just as New Brunswick police officers, firefighters, and paramedics have now. 

“Our province’s correctional officers play an indispensable role in maintaining community safety. Their work often exposes them to challenging situations that can have lasting emotional impacts. The inclusion of correctional officers in presumptive PTSD legislation is a crucial step in recognizing the unique challenges they face,” said Chris Curran, President of CUPE Local 1251.

“We commend the Department’s efforts and WorkSafeNB’s decision to initiate a public consultation on this matter,” said Curran. “We will be encouraging all our members to take an active part in the consultation process.  Our retirees’ and current members’ points of view matter most. I hope that the province will welcome such a change to the law,” added Curran.

CUPE Local 1251 is committed to advocating for the well-being of its members, along with safer and more supportive work environments. “The inclusion of correctional officers in presumptive PTSD legislation will be a positive step towards ensuring workers receive the necessary support in a timely manner,” concluded Curran.

Nursing Home Bargaining Talks Hit Wall

This Thursday, bargaining sessions between the unionized nursing home workers, as represented by CUPE NB Council of Nursing Home Unions (NBCNHU), and the employer association (NB Association of Nursing Homes – NBANH) have ground to a halt.

The government has barely moved from its staggeringly low wage proposal of June 2023: a 6% increase over 5 years, about $1.24 an hour for most workers, much less than the cost of a loaf of bread or a small coffee.

The employer association has confirmed that Government, which funds the operations of nursing homes, refuses to provide them with a monetary package that would not be insulting to present to the workers in bargaining.  Sharon Teare, President of the NBCNHU, stated: “Government still insists on imposing a “single-digit increase proposal” over the whole new contract, and the Association cannot in good conscience bring that to the workers.”

The Association was fully willing to bargain with the union, but called off the talks this Thursday as Government still insisted on its single-digit proposal.

According to Statistics Canada, average annual inflation for NB stood at 3.81% for 2021, 7.26% for 2022, and 3.67% currently for 2023. “With a single-digit increase, we are not even catching up in any way for the ground lost to inflation”, said Jason St-Onge, Vice-President of the NBCNHU. “Why is this government saying workers and residents are not worth it?” he added.

“Wages were already unacceptable before the pandemic; now it’s noticeably worse. Our province’s massive budgetary surplus should be put to good use, like helping seniors and those who care for them”, concluded Teare.

The NBCNHU represents close to 4,600 CUPE members working in 51 nursing homes throughout NB. The NB Nursing Home workers’ contract expired in October 2022.

BBQ in the Park with Mark Hancock

You are invited to a membership meet and greet with our National President Mark Hancock and the leaders of the CUPE New Brunswick Executive.
When:
August 14, 2023 | 3 PM to 6 PM
Where: MONCTON – CENTENNIAL PARK

This event is for members, activists, leaders, and the public.

 

Increases in Percentages versus Flat Rates – Membership Memo #2

Recent history of wage increases

If you’ve looked at past contracts, you might have noticed that if you’ve received general wage increases per year, they were provided in percentage increases. Governments and employers have a recent tradition of pushing wage freezes or increases in the form of percentages. They like to speak of these percentages as “mandates”, and employers want all workers to respect these wage mandates regardless of how much these workers get paid per hour.

The impact of percentage increases on CUPE workers

Employers like to negotiate percentage increases rather than flat rate increases. Wage percentage increases have the negative impact of widening wage gaps between classifications. Those with higher salaries make larger increases in real dollars compared to lower-paid workers. Over time, this compounds into unjustifiable wage gaps.EXAMPLE 1

  • 1% increase at $20.00/hour = an increase of $0.20 per hour, or an extra $1.60 per day*
  • 1% increase at $35.00/hour = an increase of $0.35 per hour, or an extra $2.80 per day*

*based on an 8-hour work day, not take home amount (deductions still apply)

 

Higher-paid civil servants like NB Deputy Ministers might think a 5% increase is a high percentage from their point of view, but it only represents $1.00/hour for someone making $20.00/hour.

EXAMPLE 2

  • 1% increase at $96.15/hour ($200,000/year – Deputy Minister) = an increase of $0.96 per hour, or an extra $38.46 per week*
  • 1% increase at $22.00/hour (median CUPE member rate) = an increase of $0.22 per hour, or an extra $8.80 per week *

*based on 40 hours per week, not take home amount (deductions still apply)

The advantages of flat rate increases

An important first step is to negotiate wage increases which give each worker the same dollars and cents-per-hour wage increase – also known as a flat rate wage increase. This stops the wage gap from widening between the lowest and highest paid.

EXAMPLE 3

  • $1.00 increase at $20.00/hour = an increase of $1.00 per hour, or an extra $40.00 per week*
  • $1.00 increase at $35.00/hour = an increase of $1.00 per hour, or an extra $40.00 per week*

*based on a 40 hours work week, not take home amount (deductions still apply)

Flat-rate wage increases maintain the differences between classifications throughout the wage grid. All wages move up by the same amount, by the same flat rate. Percentage wage increases, on the other hand, increase the top rates more than the bottom rates and has the effect of increasing the wage differential amongst classifications on the wage grid.

 

Fighting Inflation – CUPE Membership Memo #1

CUPE members in New Brunswick are dealing with the impacts of record inflation and are fighting to address it at the bargaining table.
Inflation is a measurement of price increases. If inflation goes up by 7% as it did in 2022, that means workers are paying 7% more than they did the previous year for the same goods. Inflation piles up from year to year. That means that even if inflation goes down this year, prices are still higher than they were before.

If wages stay the same from year to year but inflation increases, then your wages will not be able to pay for the same amount of goods and services they did before.

What caused this record inflation?

The pandemic caused supply chain issues, there is a war in Ukraine, oil prices have gone up, and corporations are still making record profits on the backs of workers. All these elements are factors driving inflation up. Workers are feeling the effects of record-high inflation and it is not because of bad budgeting, it is because wages are not going as far. Workers did not cause the spike in costs. Wages in the public and private sectors have not been keeping up with inflation for the past few years.

In bargaining, it pays to think ahead.

To get real pay rises, we need to negotiate above inflation for the whole duration of the contract, not just for a year or two. We need to calculate costs carefully for each year and negotiate in a preventive way because inflation almost never comes down in the negative to undo the lasting damage done to prices. If that were the case, a dollar would be still enough to buy a pop and bag of chips!

Download the printer-friendly version of this memo here

 

Statement – PC Govt Should Respect NB First Nations

It is deeply concerning that the NB Premier, Blaine Higgs, and his government have demonstrated a consistent lack of regard for the rights and obligations of consultation of the Indigenous peoples of New Brunswick. Higgs’s recent statement regarding the intention to ‘move on’ with hydrofracking without the consent of Indigenous peoples on unceded and un-surrendered Indigenous lands is not only reckless but also aggressive and unacceptable. Read our full statement below:

SCIB – Finance and Treasury Board Silencing Workers’ Voices

Moncton During a press conference held this morning, CUPE representatives denounced the GNB Finance and Treasury Board’s decision to oust all CUPE representatives from the Standing Committee on Insured Benefits (SCIB). SCIB is an employee and employer-composed board made to oversee provincially negotiated benefit plans covering over 90,000 provincial public sector workers, retirees, and family members. Vestcor administers the benefit plans, many of which are carried by Medavie Blue Cross. Benefits range from health, dental, travel, life and death insurance, many of which members pay premiums on. 

“A Director with GNB’s Finance and Treasury Board who also chairs SCIB has no right to unilaterally remove all CUPE representatives from SCIB”, said Iris Lloyd, President of CUPE Local 1253 and worker representative on SCIB. 

Recently, Treasury Board demanded that all SCIB board members sign a highly restrictive non-disclosure agreement (NDA), even specifying that only Vestcor could release information to plan members.

“Treasury Board has demanded that all elected worker representatives cease to share information with their general membership. We cannot accept this, as this would go against our obligations towards our members and retirees,” said Bryan Harris, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 1252 and himself one of the ousted worker representatives on SCIB.

 “Treasury Board is mistaken to think we, as worker representatives, have no obligations to share information and decisions with the very people who put us on that committee,” said Sandy Harding, CUPE Maritimes Regional Director. CUPE remarks that every single benefit has been the result of bargaining table negotiations. “Their decision to exclude workers’ voices makes no sense, other than wanting to hide information from the 90,000 plan participants and the public,” added Harding.  

The Auditor General has recently criticized SCIB for lacking transparency. “Workers agreed with many of the Auditor’s findings, and the recent issue of increased health premiums raised many flags. In retaliation, Treasury Board reacted by doubling down on secrecy,” said CUPE Researcher Gabrielle Ross-Marquette, who also is an alternate for workers’ voice for CUPE on SCIB. 

“We demand the Treasury Board comply with the Auditor General’s findings for more transparency. They need to get rid of the NDA, and reintegrate CUPE workers’ voice on SCIB,” said Ross-Marquette. 

SCIB was formed in the early 1990s with a signed agreement between unions and the government to talk about benefit issues at one table. Every month, CUPE members and retirees pay premiums on many benefits. “Members have skin in this game. Without their voices, SCIB loses its purpose,” said Iris Lloyd. 

Treasury Board should recognize their mistake or get ready to set up a series of individual tables between unions and employers to oversee each of those bargained benefits,” concluded Harding.