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N.B. government locks out some school staff as students move to online learning Monday

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HALIFAX -

The New Brunswick government is locking out all non-designated school employees in two CUPE locals as a result of the ongoing public sector strike.

The two CUPE locals are 1253 and 2745, which includes custodians, bus drivers, school library assistants and administrative support, and a number of educational assistants.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy said in a news conference Sunday the move is to provide stability to students, parents and guardians over the the next couple of days as students move to online learning on Monday.

“CUPE has shown unpredictability provincewide creating a volatile climate for teachers, students and parents,”Cardy said in a release.

“We want to ensure families are able to plan ahead and not wonder what the next day will bring. This will help to establish as much stability and continuity of learning for New Brunswickers as we possibly can, which is why we are implementing this lock-out in our school system.”

More than 3,000 employees are locked out​​​​​ as a result of these measures. Designated workers are not included in the lock-out.

The province says students will continue to learn from home until the strike is over.

School sports will continue, however indoor school facilities will not be available for use.

STRIKE EXPANDS IN HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM

Strike action from CUPE has expanded to Moncton, Saint John and Campbellton hospitals, all of which are in COVID-19 circuit breaker regions of the province.

CUPE’s actions are continuing to impact cleaning, supply chain, vaccination clinics, COVID-19 assessment centres and COVID-19 screening at all hospitals and facilities, the province said in a release

Patients and clients can also expect longer wait times across the health system, including registration, throughout the strike.

On Saturday, Premier Blaine Higgs says he's exploring his options to end the strike by 22,000 CUPE members after the job action impacted health-care services over the weekend.

Higgs said he could use the province's Emergency Measures Act to force the employees back to work, but will take the next 24 hours to weigh his options.

Medical services in New Brunswick are being affected as a result of a public sector strike.

At least one COVID-19 vaccination clinic has been closed in Fredericton.

Higgs said the strike also meant that COVID-19 screeners were not available in some hospitals and other facilities.

Those on strike include school bus drivers, custodians, mechanics, some health-care workers in rehabilitation and therapy, education support staff, workers in transportation and infrastructure and community college workers.

Neither side is budging, which means workers are taking shifts from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Before talks broke off, the union was seeking a 12 per cent raise over four years, with no conditions attached. The government confirmed Thursday it was offering an 8.5 per cent wage increase over a five-year period.

Higgs has said the government's offer corresponds with agreements reached this fall with three other bargaining units. As well, his government has pledged to increase the pay of casual workers by 20 per cent, improve pension coverage and provide an average of $3,200 in retroactive pay.

The union has pointed out that the government announced its fourth consecutive budget surplus earlier this month.

CUPE representatives say they will be at different locations over the weekend and they expect the strike will continue into next week. 

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