Mount Allison Staff Cuts are Unfair and Unnecessary

Sackville – NB, June 26, 2020 – CUPE members at the Mount Allison University are denouncing the layoff waves initiated by the University’s Administration.

“They are making unnecessary and unfair cuts. Layoffs generate workload issues on the remaining staff and this in turn means less resources and help for students and faculty staff,” said Tasha Hawkes, president of CUPE Local 3433, which represents over 141 clerical, administrative support and technical support staff.

“Twenty-five members of our local have been laid-off,” said Hawkes. “Fourteen members have had their hours significantly reduced and over 11 employees have been put on full layoff.

This comes after 27 CUPE Local 2338 members were laid-off in April. Local 2338 represents custodial, maintenance, trades and grounds keeping staff.

“Students, other staff, including faculty and the broader community, suffer from such layoffs. Management should reverse their decision,” said Hawkes.

“Mount A’s administration has not shared with us adequate student enrolment projections for fall 2020,” said Lori MacKay, CUPE National Servicing Representative.

“We recognize the challenges of budgeting in these times. Mount A’s challenges are no different from any other universities or organizations.  Yet, as far as we know, Mount A is the only university in the province choosing to cut staff,” said Mackay.

Based on last year’s numbers, the projected savings done through these layoffs only represent 0.006% of last year’s 46 million-dollar budget.

“The added burden of implementing new policies, procedures and technical support for online learning should mean more hands on deck, not less,” added Hawkes.

“Until the University has true knowledge of actual enrolment numbers, their cuts create unnecessary and significant negative impact to the University’s workers and the community. As Mount A is Sackville’s largest employer, they should not ignore their social responsibility towards the community” concluded MacKay.

Pride Month Statement

Fifty-one years ago, the Stonewall riots happened. Two racialized transwomen, Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, led the riots which energized the fight for equality.  With Pride Month, CUPE NB celebrates the resilience and activism of our LGBTQ2+ members and allies.

Today, Black, Indigenous and racialized LGBTQ2+ activists are spearheading the most radical cross-movement struggles since Stonewall, around the globe. More than ever, we need a “Frontline Pride” in our province, putting forward the fight to dismantle the homophobic, transphobic, white supremacist, colonial and ableist systems.

“Intersectionality” is a word that must resonate in our province as much as “Solidarity”. For 2020, CUPE is using the Progress Pride Flag to highlight how racism, transphobia and homophobia operate together, and how activists at those intersections have led the resistance.

CUPE NB calls on employers and the provincial government to end conversion practises, build safer spaces, and support LGBTQ2+ grassroots groups dealing with Covid-19.

We cannot forget that Pride is political. Employers and governments try to co-opt Pride, but CUPE is part of the loud chorus for Queer Liberation, Not Rainbow Capitalism – a call that is made only more urgent by COVID-19.

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It’s Time NB Enacted Real Anti-Scab Laws

The ongoing Lockout at the Red Pine landfill in Allardville is revealing just how much worker’s rights have been eroded in New Brunswick.

NB labour laws were put in place with the promise of protecting and promoting employees’ collective voice in their workplaces. Now, after years of attacks through legislative, administrative and judicial ways, employees are left vulnerable to intense employer interference in bargaining.

In Allardville, the 23 locked-out workers have seen how their employer could drag on “bargaining” without ever intending to reach agreement with them. On top of this, workers have been subjected to a banana republic-like court injunction making the right to collective action virtually impossible. This is the same ridiculous injunction the Belledune Smelter workers got. Picketers must stay passive and let scabs – replacement workers – cross their picket lines as police give them protection. In Allardville, workers are told to stay quiet even as the employer brings in their own family members, friends and even students as scabs.

Unlike in Québec and BC, there is no law against the use of replacement workers in New Brunswick’s private sector. This means lockout can last indefinitely. When the playing field is so uneven, when employers have all the rights, this means trouble in the long run. Flawed and unjust laws only last so long until strife and social unrest boil up.

It’s time for a positive change in the labour relations in NB. It’s time we had rules that truly protected workers’ negotiating power in both public and private sectors.

The members are in the drivers’ seat : Nursing home workers reach tentative deal

Fredericton, May 28 2020 – After years of negotiations, protests and mobilization, the NB Council of Nursing Home Unions has a reached a tentative deal with provincial government.

“Of course, this deal is “tentative” because the nursing home members have the final say on it,” said Sharon Teare, President of the NBCNHU and herself a resident attendant.

Since October 2016, workers in long-term care have been without an agreement. “Bargaining was difficult long before the COVID crisis,” said Teare. “I will not forget the severe restrictions imposed by government on the nursing home bargaining process, with no real right to strike for essential workers and the impossibility to obtain unrestricted binding arbitration,” she added.

Before the start of the voting period, every union Local part of council (a total of 51 Locals) will hold membership meetings virtually or in person where feasible. Details of the tentative deal will not be released until members have had the opportunity to be presented and questions answered. “After presentation of the tentative deal, every member will be able to vote in a safe and democratic process through secret ballot,” said Teare.

Teare recognizes the deal does not solve all the issues nursing home workers currently face: “It must be either accepted or rejected by the membership. We can’t be in the mushy middle and divided during this crisis,” concluded Teare.

The NB Council of Nursing Home Unions represents 4100 workers in 51 nursing homes throughout NB.

Community Care Workers Recognized as Essential Workers

Fredericton, May 21, 2020 – The unionized community care workers – those working in group homes, transition houses, youth homes, women’s shelters, home care, food banks – are pleased to see how provincial government has now considered them “essential” and “eligible” for the new federal wage top-up funds.

“We hope the recognition becomes permanent in our field,” said Laurie Anderson, president of the NB Community Service Unions (NBCSU) and herself a group home worker. “This federal program is a victory for us, and I hope the provincial recognition does not fade away after the crisis, so we don’t fall back down to near minimum wage levels again,” she added. 

The provincial program targets full-time workers earning less than $18 an hour more targeting essential service workers in every province. However, as the field is dominated by part-time work and atypical shifts, Anderson fears too many could be left out.

“Wages are good. But I worry about those women and men who don’t have enough hours and must hold 2 or 3 jobs. Will they be left out by the program? I wish folks in Fredericton would want to talk to us so we can make this work for all and leave no one behind,” said Anderson.

“Our sector has many challenges, which we flagged multiple times through letters to Dorothy Shephard, the Minister of Social Development. Unfortunately, she has yet to respond to our letters or invitations to meet,” added Anderson.

Among issues raised by the NBCSU to the Minister, workers raised the problematic lax application of PPE requirements in most community care establishments in NB.

“We have too many employers who are operating contrary to WorkSafeNB requirements and rules surrounding our “community setting” for primary workers,” said Anderson.  “I hope we can talk to the Minister so we can get everybody on board, employers and workers, so all are safe and adequately resourced to deliver the care our most vulnerable depend on,” she concluded.

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.

Higgs’ Wage Recognition Plan Leaves Too Many Behind

Fredericton – On Wednesday, May 20, Premier Blaine Higgs announced how and who would be admissible for the federal government funded Wage Top-up program. The provincial program targets some full-time essential service workers earning less than $18/hr.

“While many are finally receiving some well-deserved recognition, specifically those in childcare, group homes, special care homes, transition houses and women’s shelter, others have unjustifiably been left behind,” said Brien Watson, President of CUPE NB.

CUPE NB notes that in healthcare, classifications such as dietary aides, laundry workers, porters and many others have starting salaries below $18/hr.

While Higgs said he is leaving the door open to add nursing home staff to the list of covered front-line workers, he has not said if many other workers, such as hospital workers earning less than $18/hr, would be included.

“Government cannot leave behind essential workers, neither should they dismiss front-line workers who earn more than $18/hr. They also deserve wage recognition. Front-line workers are generally underpaid in New Brunswick, especially when we compare with other provinces,” said Watson.

Across Canada, front-line workers in the battle against COVID-19 are expecting a $4/hr wage recognition, with many provinces going beyond the federal program and putting wage top-ups of their own. “This would be the right thing to do in NB, to improve all essential workers’ wages beyond the federal government’s contribution,” said Watson.

“We can do better than just rely on federal money. Wage recognition is necessary to fix the recruitment and retention crisis in the public sector. We need more people in essential services. This predates the pandemic,” concluded Watson.

NB Front-Line Workers Deserve Wage Recognition

May 8 2020, Fredericton – On May 7, Prime Minister Trudeau announced a $4 Billion Wage Top-up program targeting essential service workers in every province. CUPE NB considers this cost-shared program, where the federal pays 75% of the costs, and provinces pay the remaining 25%, as a great program to improve wages in our public services.

“As a healthcare worker myself, I am very pleased to hear this federal announcement. I hope the provincial government provides the increase to all workers in healthcare, long term care, community care, but also all essential front-line workers,” said Norma Robinson, President of CUPE 1252, the NB Council of Hospital Unions.

Across Canada, front-line workers in the battle against COVID-19 are expecting a $4/hour wage recognition.

“Premier Higgs, with this program, you have a ready-made solution to solve the crisis in NB nursing homes,” said Sharon Teare, President of the NB Council of Nursing Home Unions. “The $4 adjustment can help solve the recruitment and retention crisis that predates the pandemic. Let’s work together to make it right, today,” said Teare.

“Even before COVID-19, a real wage adjustment was long overdue in healthcare. Overstretched and overburdened staff like paramedics, LPNs, trade workers, PSWs, security guards and so many other classifications deserve this,” said Norma Robinson.

CUPE NB launched the “Breaking the Mandate – Bargaining Forward” campaign 3 years ago to highlight the urgency to make real wage improvements for all workers. Too many have seen stagnant wages while the cost of living continues to rise. This has created widespread labour shortages in the public sector.

“I am hopeful. I think our Premier has the chance to “turn the page” and foster constructive government-worker relations,” said CUPE NB President, Brien Watson. “Government has learned to trust workers as we rally to protect the health and safety of our communities. I believe this could be the start of a mutually beneficial cooperation,” he added.

“The moment is right to fix long-term wage issues in NB. I hope the Premier shares my optimism and will also recognize how staff in corrections, community care sector, youth services, NB Liquor workers, transportation, social workers and so many others need to be included in this wage adjustment plan,” concluded Watson.

 

A disastrous lockout for workers and the environment

May 5, Allardville, NB – The 23 workers at the Red Pine landfill site, locked out since February 13 – are sounding the alarm.

“Spring is coming, the ground is thawing, and the landfill is now an environmental time bomb,” said Serge Plourde, President of CUPE Local 4193, representing the workers at the landfill.

Among the locked-out employees is also an environmental technologist who is seriously concerned about the situation. “Are water treatment testing practices regularly and meticulously performed by competent and experienced personnel who are familiar with the reality of the landfill site? “asks Yvon Richard, technologist.

“It’s only a matter of time, in the event of a failure to test, a very rainy spring, to see contaminated spills in the Nepisiguit River,” adds Richard.

“Has the Chaleur Regional Services Commission (CRSC) warned the local populations and First Nations of the environmental risk associated with the lockout? “asks Brien Watson, President of CUPE NB.

Union members are also denouncing the ongoing contracting out practices.  The employer is using family members to do work of bargaining unit members, as well as posting student positions. “It’s shameful to get to this point instead of putting in place the winning conditions to negotiate a fair and equitable contract,” says Plourde.

Of all the workplaces where CUPE is present in the country, only the CRSC keeps its employees locked out. CUPE represents more than 700,000 workers in Canada.

“Mayors of the Chaleur region, put an end to the lockout.  This has gone on long enough,” concludes Brien Watson.

CUPE NB Statement – April 28, Day of Mourning

Fredericton – On April 28, the National Day of Mourning for workers killed or Injured on the job, we remember all the workers we have lost, and we vow to keep fighting for safe and healthy workplaces for everyone. A virtual ceremony organized by the NB Federation of Labour will be held in New Brunswick.

Every year in Canada, around 1000 workers lose their lives on the job. According to WorkSafeNB, nine people lost their lives on the job in 2019 – more than the previous five years. “Their deaths were preventable and should not have had happen. And each one is a tragedy,” said Brien Watson, CUPE NB President.

“COVID-19 makes this day even more important, as now everybody sees the importance of health and safety rules and practices,” said Watson. “Every effort must be made to protect front-line staff who are exposed to the risk of contagion so that others can stay safe at home,” said Watson.

“We mourn the dead and we fight for the living. We still need better legislation, better workplace safety education, and ensure all workers have the vital personal protective equipment to do their job in these times,” said Watson.

Virtual gatherings are happening across the country to align with public health directives that are keeping us all safe throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

CUPE NB Invites members and the public to participate in the NBFL April 28 ceremony through Facebook Live.  The ceremony will begin at noon, through the NB Federation of Labour’s Facebook page: @NewBrunswickFederationOfLabour