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Lots of disruptions for New Brunswickers amid CUPE strike

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SAINT JOHN, N.B. -

Saint John's only COVID-19 assessment centre is closed indefinitely due to the ongoing labour dispute, according to the Horizon Health Network.

The facility, located on Ropewalk Road in the city's north end, will be shut down "for the duration of the strike" spokesperson Kris McDavid told CTV News in an email, as cancellations continue throughout the health-care system.

Horizon Health says that all elective and day surgeries have been cancelled, as have therapeutic services, ambulatory care clinics, laboratory services, and diagnostic or medical-imaging exams.

"Many of these patients have waited a long time for this intervention or diagnostic test or surgery – and now they're being told you're going to wait again," says New Brunswick Medical Society president Dr. Mark MacMillan.

"There is that risk of morbidity and worsening of their physical well-being and, of course, their mental health as well."

All visitation is restricted at Horizon Health facilities, and designated support persons are only allowed in "exceptional circumstances" on a case-by-case basis.

Unless you have been notified directly and told otherwise, the health authority says to presume that your appointment has been cancelled.

As well, starting Monday, schools have moved to online learning which will continue until the end of the strike. It's a situation that's causing frustration and difficulties for some parents in New Brunswick.

"My wife works full time, I work full time, I have an eight-year-old and a 13-year-old," says parent Justin Chatterton. "It's pretty difficult to find a babysitter on short notice and to try and facilitate the learning."

For parent Justin Tinker, who has one child in elementary school and another who is three-years-old, he's now had to stay home from work.

"Because of the premier's selfish decision not to sit down and go back to the table with CUPE, I'm forced to take time off," says Tinker, "we're still paying for daycare for our other child but unable to reap the benefits of it."

Meanwhile, the New Brunswick Medical Society is urging both the provincial government and CUPE to return to the negotiating table and work to find a resolution.

CUPE NB PRESIDENT SAYS UNION FEELS PUBLIC SUPPORT

In an interview with CTV Atlantic on Monday evening, CUPE New Brunswick president Stephen Drost said the workers didn't take the decision to go strike lightly, citing a few aggravating factors.

"There's been a lot of trickery or maybe misleading information. Our workers are among the lowest paid or the lowest paid in Canada," Drost said.

It goes beyond wages for the CUPE employees New Brunswick, though.

"They have been without a contract for four or five years," Drost said. "They said they were tired and fed up. The bargaining team had been invited back to the table and then, once the government had walked away for the second or third time in the middle of negotiations, they just said 'you know what we're done.'"

Drost said that in May, CUPE told the province they wanted the contracts to be settled by Labour Day and, if they weren't, they'd be forced to take job action.

He told CTV Atlantic that the workers are confident in their decision.

"First and foremost, the public support has been phenomenal," Drost said. "We've never seen it so high. I received a message today and Facebook's blowing up with the support all of the members that are out on the picket line, it's unbelievable the level of support.The public has our back on this one."

Drost also disputed something New Brunswick Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy said Monday about the union not providing the government with accurate or up to date and specific information about its strike plans.

"He doesn't have that quite correct," Drost said. "In fact, we had given proper notice and the notice was given the night before that the workers the CUPE workers that are in the school said that they are going to be taking drawbacks."

MARCH TO LEGISLATURE PLANNED FOR TUESDAY

Late Monday night, CUPE issued a release saying striking and locked-out members will march to the legislative assembly of New Brunswick on Tuesday as MLAs return to the legislature.

The marches start at noon from two locations -- and converge at the House of Assembly at 1 p.m.

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