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Hospital workers in New Brunswick have ratified a tentative agreement that ends a province-wide hospital strike that began March 2.
The negotiated deal breaks the 1.5 per cent wage increase pattern that the government has set for all public sector contract negotiations. The 6,000 workers, members of CUPE 1252, will get an 8 per cent pay raise over four years. Also, an additional 4.5 per cent will be shared among 90 per cent of the members, many of them women in lower paid job classifications.
We are pleased with the breakthrough on 1.5 per cent, said chief negotiator Danny Bernatchez. But hospital support staff wages are a long way from where they should be.
In a vote held while the legislature was sitting in emergency session to consider back-to-work legislation, 3,253 voted to accept the settlement, 1,061 voted against, 1,749 members did not vote and there were 28 spoiled ballots.
The fact that 2,810 members voted no or did not vote at all shows their anger, frustration and contempt for the Lord government, Bernatchez said.
I am disgusted that the premier would put a gun to the head of 6,000 hospital workers, many of them earning well under the poverty line, to make himself look like a tough guy, said National President Judy Darcy.
Typical of bullies, this premier has chosen to pick on the lower-paid workers, Darcy said. Now he must be confronted by the full force of the labour movement.
If this legislative threat was designed to help improve Premier Bernard Lords image as a tough politician then it will backfire, Bernatchez said, because it has the potential to cause even more labour unrest in an already unhealthy labour relations climate.
The actions by the government have been widely condemned as draconian. Unions across the province, including other CUPE locals that are currently in negotiations, are looking at ways to defend free collective bargaining.