Higgs vows to either appeal court ruling or call election over right-to-strike issue
FREDERICTON -- The premier of New Brunswick is promising a Supreme Court challenge or an election over a lower court ruling that affirms nursing-home workers' right to strike.
While Premier Blaine Higgs says he is disappointed, the families of those who live in the homes are worried about what happens next.
Stuart Lyons says he's spent the better part of this year on pins and needles as lawyers, politicians and union members discussed his mother's care, with, what he calls, a lack of care.
"She's going to become a guinea pig in this whole entire thing because they really have to balance how many workers can walk off the job without actually causing a burden to my mom and her health," Lyons said.
His 88-year-old mother, Marion, lives in a Riverview nursing home. Tuesday, New Brunswick's Court of Appeal upheld the right to strike for nursing-home workers.
Lyons believes a strike is now inevitable.
"I don't believe that we would walk out on children," Lyons said. "I don't believe we would walk out on animals. I believe that, probably, there's laws out there that probably better protect animals than protect our seniors."
Higgs says he's prepared to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada.
"Will I take this further? Yes I will, but I don't want to," Higgs said.
When asked by a reporter if the money spent on a legal challenge or another election would be better spent on nursing-home workers, Higgs replied: "It could be spent much better! I'm not looking to just create more business for the legal profession. But it's like, once you solve this issue, it's a solution for other issues coming."
The province has 30 days to ask the Supreme Court for a leave to appeal.
It also has until the new year to amend the current law giving workers the right to strike.
So. the province has until then to do something to stop a strike.
Opposition members say the right choice is heading back to the bargaining table.
"He's lost twice now in court with respect to the right to strike for nursing-home workers," said Green Party Leader David Coon. "He needs to sit down and solve the problem. Now whether that's binding arbitration or bargain in good faith to get a good settlement, one of those two things, he just needs to do it."
Higgs says he will only go to binding arbitration if there are particular conditions.
"And I feel so strongly about that that if it came down to an election item, then so be it," Higgs said.
The union has asked for a three per cent wage increase, each year, over four years.
Higgs says the province can't afford what the workers are asking for.
For now, he has almost exactly two months to figure out which route the province will take.