New Brunswicks 5,800 hospital workers are taking a strike vote and CUPE Local 1252 leaders are convinced that they will get a strong mandate when the count is completed on February 20.
We believe the members will vote strongly in favour of a strike, said CUPE representative Danny Bernatchez. If they have to, they can and will launch effective strike action.
About 55 per cent of the members are designated essential and cannot strike. But without a substantial raise in more than 10 years, all the members are upset and frustrated that they make less than all other hospital groups.
Full-time hospital workers make about $20,000. But the many part-timers, mostly women, earn $12,000-$16,000.
They may have been prepared to accept a conciliation board report tabled late in 2000. It recommended an 8 per cent increase over three years with a wage adjustment. But the government rejected the report.
Hospital workers may still be willing to accept the board proposal. But if the government waits until the strike vote is counted, it may be too late.
Finance Minister Norman Betts can avoid this strike, Bernatchez said. We are prepared to examine a compromise. Our members dont want a strike. They are dedicated to their work in the health care sector. But the clock is ticking.
Local 1252s collective agreement expired on June 30, 1999. Members rejected a tentative agreement in November 1999.