Court stenographers in New Brunswick are back on the job, having agreed to binding arbitration to end the longest public sector strike in the provinces history. The four-month strike highlighted the issue of womens low wages and was widely seen as a case of wage discrimination by the provincial government.
Judges, lawyers, media and the public came to support the court stenos as both sides dug in their heels. The government insisted on holding to its pattern of 1.5 per cent increases in each year of a three-year agreement.
CUPE 1840 proposed a wage adjustment on top of the 1.5 per cent to give them wage equity with other workers in the justice system. The stenos earn about $29,000 a year.
Its clear the government underestimated the courage and determination of these women, said National President Judy Darcy. It expected them to surrender but in the end, the stenos knew they were right and they held out.
Admitting the lengthy walkout caused disruption in the courts, justice minister Brad Green said, Weve made a decision that the strike must be ended in order to preserve the integrity of the justice system.
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Elizabeth Weir said the decision to send the dispute to third-party arbitration proves the Conservative governments plan to offer a standard, 1.5 per cent hike isnt working.
Theres a clear and simple message for the government in all this: this dog wont hunt, said Weir.
You cant tell people theyre going to get 1.5 per cent when theyre looking at home-heating fuel bills doubling over last winter and when they can barely afford to put gasoline in the tanks of their cars to drive to work.