N.B. nursing home workers urged to end occupation of minister's office
New Brunswick’s social development minister is urging nursing home workers to end their occupation of her Fredericton office.
The executives of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions first gathered in Dorothy Shephard’s office Wednesday morning in the hopes of meeting with her.
In a statement last week, Shephard said the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes had presented the workers with an enhanced offer, but the workers say they have yet to see it.
The union executives have now spent two nights and almost three days in the waiting room of Shephard’s office.
“We slept here, we stayed here, and we're staying here until Dorothy picks up the phone,” said CUPE spokesperson Simon Ouellette.
In a news release Friday, Shephard said the government has already met the union’s key demand, and asked the workers to leave.
“Yesterday, CUPE delivered a message to government through the mediator that if we confirmed a date to resume talks, they would leave. They reiterated to the media last night that once a date was confirmed, they would no longer have any reason to be there. Yet, we have already confirmed a date to resume talks next week and still they remain,” said Shephard.
“It is clear they have gone back on their word.”
However, union executives say they would like to discuss the latest contract offer with Shephard herself, or with Premier Blaine Higgs -- not through a third party -- and are prepared to camp inside her office as long as necessary.
“Let us be clear: We are not doing an occupation to ‘settle bargaining dates,’” said Sharon Teare, president of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions, in a statement Friday.
“Never once did we state we are here to get bargaining dates. Minister Shephard, we are here because you have avoided us over and over, and we still think a meeting with you could only do good for everyone.”
Shephard says, while she respects the union’s right to peacefully protest, their presence is disrupting operations for Social Development and neighbouring businesses.
“Their tactics have resulted in bullying toward Social Development employees and have interrupted the department’s ability to carry out its business,” Shephard stated in the news release.
However, Teare disputes that claim, saying the minister’s allegations of bullying are false.
The government says, only when union members leave, will a conversation be possible.
Nursing home workers in New Brunswick have been without a contract for 30 months and are currently legally prevented from going on strike, although that decision is subject to a judicial review on May 24.