On Monday, CUPE 1252, the union representing over 9,000 health care workers in New Brunswick, held a virtual press conference to demand government properly recognize the work done by Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs).  

“The health care system relies heavily on the work of LPNs for hospital and extra-mural care.  Despite this, the NB Government still refuses to recognize the importance and scope of this profession in the health care system today. We are on the verge of a recruitment and retention crisis. When will government act to improve their wages and working conditions?” asked Norma Robinson, President of CUPE 1252.   

Local 1252 demanded that the government immediately do the following:  

  1. Complete the Joint Job Evaluation Process (demanded by CUPE 2 years ago) so LPNs get an immediate wage recognition;  
  2. Recognize that NB LPNs should have the right to be called nurses, just like in all other Canadian provinces; 
  3. Deal with the recruitment and retention issues by recognizing the value of their work and compensating them accordingly as other Atlantic provinces do; and 
  4. Scrap “imposed wage freezes and wage restriction mandates on all public sector worker”. Higgs should come to the bargaining table with a respectful wage increase for all healthcare workers, because “zeros” is disrespect for all frontline heroes. 

LPNs are front-line care nurses that patients see every day in the hospitals. They are responsible for managing patient care plans. Today, they work collaboratively as a Care Team member with the Registered Nurses and Doctors to do much more than basic patient care. CUPE Local 1252 notes that the scope of practice of LPNs is 90% that of a Registered Nurse in NB, however LPNs only make 64% of an RN’s hourly wage. 

“Despite work, skills and educational requirement increases, despite even COVID-19 pressures put on LPNs, the NB Government has not done anything to adjust what is the worst compensation packages and recognition for LPNs in all of Atlantic provinces. LPNs in New Brunswick make on average 14% less than LPNs in PEI, NS and NFLD,” denounced Robinson.  

“Recently, LPNs have raised their concerns with media, on how there could be an exodus of workers if nothing is done, and I agree: if the government fails to act, the staffing situation will worsen,” said Robinson. 

During the press conference, Robinson condemned the ongoing “divide-and-conquer” strategy used by politicians and right-wing newspaper editors to mislead workers to blame their unions for poor working conditions: “Let’s be clear, management and government decide working conditions, and unions push back during bargaining to get fairness and recognition for all. But with Higgs’ wage freeze plan, they leave no room for good faith bargaining and fairness for LPNs. Workers are pushed to the max, this wage freeze plan is a time bomb,” said Robinson. “LPNs are tired of waiting. Healthcare workers are tired of waiting. We invite all our members to push government out of its inaction,” she concluded. 

Some quick facts:  

  • There are over 4,000 LPNs in New Brunswick, half of which work in hospitals, the remainder in mainly work in long-term care and special care homes. CUPE Local 1252 represents over 2000 LPNs in the NB Healthcare system.  
  • Two years ago, the Government promised in the collective agreement to CUPE to conduct a Joint Job Evaluation process to properly adjust recognition and wages for LPNs in the Patient Services. The current Government has been stalling the process to avoid compensating the LPNs fairly. 
  • There is a dire need for LPNs: Approximately 200 graduate each year in NB, but over 800 will retire over the next 5 years. 
  • Over the years, the educational requirements for LPNs in NB increased: initially, it was a 12-month program, but became an 18-month study program in 2004 and was increased to 24 months in 2012.