Contract talks between N.B. and nursing home workers break down
Published Thursday, March 14, 2019 9:49PM ADT
Last Updated Thursday, March 14, 2019 9:54PM ADT
The people who own and work in nursing homes will be facing each other in court on Friday.
Contract talks between the two sides have broken down and now it's up to a court to decide whether the workers will be allowed to strike to get what they want.
There has been frustration on both sides of the ongoing labour dispute between New Brunswick's nursing home workers and the government.
During negotiations this week, the province brought what they called an “enhanced offer” to the table.
But the union says no progress was made.
“They're bringing back to the table a three-year contract, something that our members have already previously rejected,” said Sharon Teare of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Union’s president.
That offer included a median wage increase of 10.5 cents per hour every 6 months.
“It is not something I will take back to my members,” Teare said. “They deserve more than what is being provided there.”
But the Progressive Conservative government believes they are misrepresenting the situation.
“CUPE has downplayed its own wage demands in the media,” said Dorothy Shephard, New Brunswick’s Minister of Social Development.“But this is the fact: they have demanded wage increases of 20 per cent over four years, plus additional compensation adjustments.”
That’s something the minister says is unreasonable.
“Added up, these increases would cost New Brunswick taxpayers $28 million more each year,” Shephard says.
The way this labour relations dispute is progressing doesn't surprise retired CUPE Nova Scotia communicator John McCracken, who says that cases have progressed similarly across the country in recent years.
McCracken says Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil set a precedent with recent back-to-work orders for public sector workers in his province.
“He absolutely gutted the rights of unionized employees in Nova Scotia,” McCracken said. “And those bills are currently being challenged in the courts.”
How does McCracken sees this all going down? With 30,000 members, CUPE is the largest union in New Brunswick and he’s confident.
“I'm confident that they will do whatever needs to be done to challenge this kind of initiative from the government, up to and including launching a Charter challenge,” McCracken said.
The New Brunswick government says it’s still ready to go back to negotiations.
“As soon as the mediator is ready for us to come back together, we'll be there,” Shephard said.
That won't happen until after a court date tomorrow when the province is expected to request a long-term stay against any job action.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jessica Ng.