Nursing Home Workers File for Conciliation in Negotiations with Government

During Friday’s negotiation session, the government presented its latest wage offer to the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions (NBCNHU), which represents nearly 4,600 workers in 51 nursing homes across New Brunswick.

Sharon Teare, President of the NBCNHU, expressed disappointment, stating, “This offer falls far short of meeting the pressing needs of nursing home workers who provide essential care for our seniors.”

Because of the significant gap between the two parties on monetary issues, the NBCNHU has officially filed for conciliation. “The provincial government has been out of touch with the urgent realities faced by nursing home workers, who struggle to meet basic needs like food and shelter,” added Teare.

Teare further explained, “The government’s proposed wage package equates to a mere $2.76 per hour for our lowest-paid workers after 5 years. This offer worsens the crisis in our sector, deepening disparities between worker needs and the rising cost of living.”

To provide context, inflation rates in New Brunswick have been significant: 2022 (7.26%), and 2023 (4% as of August), with optimist forecasts suggesting inflation will be near 2.33% for 2024, and 2% for 2025 and 2026. The compounded inflation rate since 2022 will be near 18.7%.

Meanwhile, the government’s latest wage offer remains below inflation for every year of the contract, with increases of 4% for 2022, 3% for 2023, 2% for 2024, 2% for 2025, 2% for 2026, which compounds to a total of 13.68%, a difference of 5% below inflation.

Teare emphasized, “Workers need real wage increases, not a 5% wage cut, to enhance care and address staff shortages. We urge Labour Minister Arlene Dunn to promptly appoint a conciliator for this critical matter. Workers have waited long enough for a fair deal, and the crisis in our system requires immediate attention,” concluded Teare.

Kill a Worker, Go to Jail

CUPE NB commends the recent legal decision to hold negligent employers accountable for their actions. The sentencing of Jason King to three years in prison for criminal negligence resulting in the tragic death of Michael Henderson sends a clear message that workplace safety cannot be compromised.

This ruling is a significant step towards ensuring proper protection for workers and upholding their rights. Justice Thomas Christie emphasized the importance of deterrence and denunciation in his decision, emphasizing that criminal acts in the workplace will not go unpunished. We believe that such consequences for employers who neglect their responsibilities are long overdue.

We stand with the family of Michael Henderson and admire their courage throughout this challenging process. We also want to acknowledge the support from various labour unions in advocating for safer workplaces. As we move forward, we hope this case sets a precedent for companies to prioritize health and safety, recognizing that the well-being of workers is paramount.

“Workers have the legal right to safety at work and to return home to their family after their shift is finished. Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe work environment for their workers. Worker’s safety must be the highest law,” said Stephen Drost, President of CUPE NB.

This decision reinforces the obligation of employers to adhere to workplace safety standards, ensuring that tragedies like this one never happen again. Springhill Construction Ltd. has been charged alongside Jason King, and the company’s trial is scheduled for January 8, 2024. We look forward to the upcoming trial and hope that justice will be served.

It is hoped that the judge presiding over the matter will recognize that companies also have a responsibility to their employees and supervisors, and they cannot place all the blame on subordinates when health and safety protocols are not followed in the workplace.

Saint John City Workers Hit Picket Lines Today

Saint John, NB – CUPE Local 486, representing over 133 City of Saint John inside workers, have begun their strike this morning. Picket lines have been set up in various locations in the City.

“The City of Saint John has refused to come back to the bargaining table with a fair wage offer. They are forcing a strike because they refuse to honour their own Wage Escalation Policy for City workers,” said Brittany Doyle, President of CUPE Local 486.

The City’s intent is to enforce a contract that falls below the cost of living.

“I hope the City reconsiders their position so that they bring a fair deal and avoid unnecessary strike and service interruptions.  All we ask for is a reasonable wage package that acknowledges the cost-of-living issues we are facing as workers,” concluded Doyle.

The members of CUPE Local 486 work in clerical, administrative, support, IT, and technical roles, encompassing various municipal services including Dispatch Services for Police, Fire and 911, Court Services, Recreation, Customer Services, By-Law Enforcement, Financial Services, Permits, and many more.

Saint John City Workers Overwhelmingly Approve Strike Action

CUPE Local 486, representing close to 140 City of Saint John held a press conference today to announce a significant development in their ongoing negotiations with the City. Members have voted overwhelmingly in favor of strike action, with 94% in favor.

“Back in December 2021, our previous contract expired. Following almost two years of unproductive negotiations, management has brought us to an impasse,” stated Brittany Doyle, President of CUPE Local 486.

“Despite our sincere efforts to reach an agreement at the bargaining table, the City is intent on enforcing a contract that falls below the cost of living and violates the City’s own Wage Escalation Policy. This essentially amounts to a wage reduction for us,” she added. “Management’s stance lacks reason. We are simply advocating for fairness; asking for a cost-of-living adjustment is not an unreasonable request,” voiced Doyle.

While the City of Saint John is experiencing growth in both population and revenue, municipal services have yet to catch up. “Despite a 15% increase in tax base the last two years that has added a staggering $123 million increase in tax base revenue, the City also has hidden $37.5 million in a slush fund. The City cannot justify why it will not honor its commitment to its own Wage Escalation Policy to “use the three-year rolling average of the assessment-based growth in negotiations for fair, predictable and affordable wage increases. The City is now reneging on their own Policy for this group of City workers, after voluntarily sharing it with others” expressed Michael Davidson, CUPE Servicing Representative.  “The City is unreasonably forcing this group of workers to take a strike vote to get the City to honor their own policy” he continued.

“During the City’s years of financial crisis, we played our part in contributing to cost reductions, particularly in pension conversions, wages restraints, and reduced services, we were an integral part of the sustainability plan” noted Doyle. Management possesses the resources to offer just wages to workers. “The City is now reneging on their promise and cannot be trusted, we don’t know why they will not honor their own policy” added Doyle, “We don’t know why the City is forcing a needless strike on the Citizens and businesses in Saint John”.

“We hope the City comes to their senses and negotiates a fair and reasonable wage package that reflects a balance between wage escalation and cost of living and avoids an unnecessary strike” concluded Doyle.

The members of CUPE Local 486 work in clerical, administrative, support, IT, and technical roles, encompassing various municipal services including Police, Fire and 911 Dispatch, Court Services, Recreation, Customer Services, By-Law Enforcement, Financial Services, Permits, and many more.

MLA Salaries – Membership Memo #3

Higgs gives himself huge raises but wants to impose below-inflation “wage mandates” on workers

Our provincial government has a history of trying to set wage “mandates” for all public sector workers. They want to impose this on all classifications, regardless of how workers get paid per hour. Lower-paid workers lose out every time when mandates are imposed, as they follow percentages, not flat rates.

The percentage widens the wage gap between classifications by giving larger increases to those who already earn more. To top it all, the recent wage mandates almost never address inflation, meaning workers lose real wages if they accept them.

Current bargaining: Many CUPE locals/councils have received wage offers from the government. These are 5-year deals with shameful “increases” (below inflation) of 2% for the first year, then 1%, 1%, 1%, and 1% for the other years. That is only 6% over 5 years. Inflation for 2022 alone was 7.6%! This government is demanding you take a real pay cut.

In 2022, this government gave itself an immediate 15% raise. In 2023, Higgs legislated another raise for himself and MLAs: between 9% and 13%, which comes into effect in November 2024.

The Premier raised his own salary…by 15% in 2022, and by 13% in 2024. He is saying that all workers should respect the proposed 5-year “wage mandate,” but when it comes to his own salary, Higgs does not accept his own mandate.

If we take politicians’ salaries and turn them into hourly rates for a 40-hour work week, in dollar amounts the Premier received a $21.70 per hour total increase for 2021-2023. Premier Higgs will have seen his salary go from $152,150 to $186,256. (32 000$ salary increase, equivalent to $21.70/h increase).

Cabinet members with a department portfolio are getting a raise of $15.90 per hour, $14.35 per hour for other Cabinet members, and $3.92 per hour for MLAs.

The government accepted these raises for politicians by saying that they needed to compensate for the “high inflation which has eroded their salaries”.

Let’s not forget how provincial judges also received the equivalent of a flat rate increase of $7.25 per hour for 2023, on top of raises for the last three years. This was also done “to fight off inflation”.

Why should CUPE workers, who in some cases would only need a $4-$6 per hour raise to get wages above inflation, not get the same fair treatment?

Celebrating Labour Day: Together for Fairness, Prosperity, and Strong Communities

Dear CUPE Members and Fellow Citizens of New Brunswick,

Happy Labour Day! On this special day, as we take a moment to celebrate the achievements of workers and the significant contributions they have made to our great province, we also come together with a renewed spirit of unity and hope for a brighter future.

Labour Day is more than just a day off; it’s a tribute to the resilience, dedication, and hard work that each one of you brings to your roles every single day. As President of CUPE NB, I stand here with immense pride, recognizing the pivotal role that our union members play in shaping New Brunswick’s landscape. Together, we have fought for safer workplaces, better wages, improved benefits, and a stronger voice for workers’ rights. Our collective efforts have truly made a positive impact on the lives of so many.

While we celebrate our achievements, it’s essential to acknowledge that our province is growing, but the rewards of this growth are not being fairly shared. We see big businesses benefiting from tax cuts while hardworking individuals continue to struggle. The rising cost of living, housing challenges, and the imperative need for better resource management and planning are issues that touch the lives of us all. As we enjoy of Labour Day, let us also reflect on how we can stand united to address these challenges head-on.

Our province’s progress should be felt by every citizen, every worker, and every family. By working together, advocating for fair wages, better working conditions, and sustainable policies, we can ensure that New Brunswick becomes a place where everyone reaps the benefits of our collective efforts.

This Labour Day, I invite each and every one of you to participate in the various labour events taking place across the province.

Let’s join hands to celebrate our achievements, rekindle our commitment to workers’ rights, and embrace the power of unity in creating positive change. By standing shoulder to shoulder, we send a strong message that New Brunswick’s growth should uplift all its residents, without leaving anyone behind.

Once again, Happy Labour Day! Let’s continue to be the driving force for positive change in our province.

In Solidarity,

Stephen Drost President, CUPE NB


LABOUR DAY EVENTS IN NB

Bathurst & District Labour Council
Coronation Park Munroe Street Bathurst, NB
September 4, 2023, Parade starts at 1:00 p.m., BBQ and speeches will follow.
Contact: John Gagnon gagnonnjohn@yahoo.com, 506-545-0651

Edmundston District Labour Council
239 Principale Street Saint Basile, NB
September 4, 2023, 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Contact: Lorn Martin lornm5@gmail.com, 506-737-7063

Moncton & District Labour Council
Centennial Park Moncton, NB
September 3, 2023, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Contact: Melissa Brown melandjade@hotmail.com, 506-872-4643

Saint John & District Labour Council
Parade starts at Old Court House on King St. East
Fire Fighter’s Hall & Fisher Lakes, Saint John, NB
September 4, 2023, 11:30 a.m.
Contact: Shawn Wetmore shawnwet@hotmail.com, 506-693-9347

Dalhousie: Organized by CUPE & Restigouche District Labour Council
Softball Tournament, Car Show, Parade and BBQ
Inch Arran Park, Dalhousie, NB
September 1 to 4, 2023:

Friday, September 1 – music in the park
Saturday, September 2 – youth ball hockey tournament, music in the park
Sunday, September 3 – lob ball tournament, free swim at Recreaplex
Monday, September 4 – Labour Day Parade, car show, free hot dogs, corn, popcorn, cotton candy, chips, pop, juice boxes, prize bags, face painting, bouncy castle, little train rides, rides on an antique fire truck, free swim at Recreaplex and magic show. For adults, there will be entertainment at the NBIP from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Contact: Brian Arseneault arsefourteen@gmail.com, 506-686-4050

 

 

 

 

 

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.