CUPE 1253, which represents 2800 school district bus drivers, custodians and trade workers, along with CUPE 2745, representing 4400 educational support staff, held a press conference to denounce the provincial government’s threats to free collective bargaining.
Last week, the provincial government delivered a message to the two education locals, signaling the provinces’ intent to breach the contract that concluded the 2021 public sector strike. They issued an ultimatum to the locals: abandon the hard-fought agreement on pensions established in November 2021 and March 2022, or face the imposition of a new pension plan through legislation this week.
In response to this unwarranted threat, CUPE 2745 and 1253 took a firm stand and sent a stern response to the government. “We will not negotiate under threat. We have a fair pension plan agreement in place for our members, and the government’s attempt to change the rules of the game is unacceptable,” said Theresa McAllister, president of CUPE 2745.
Iris Lloyd, president of CUPE 1253, added, “The introduction of a new law would constitute a breach of our collective agreement, a contract that Premier Higgs himself advocated for. It is a betrayal of the very process he championed.”
Approximately 20,000 New Brunswickers endured a 16-day strike, resulting in hardships for tens of thousands of families, all in pursuit of a fair agreement. The premier and his cabinet’s decision to disregard this hard-won compromise has broader implications for the entire province. CUPE sounds the alarm for all entities with contracts under the Higgs government — unions, communities, First Nations, businesses, etc. Theresa McAllister warned, “If the government can break its promise to us, what’s to stop them from breaking other promises? There must be consequences for reneging on agreements.”
“As New Brunswickers, we take promises seriously. Signed contracts, negotiated in good faith, are the foundation of modern labour relations,” said Iris Lloyd. “If the government tests this foundation, the ground will shake around them,” added Lloyd.
CUPE 2745 and 1253 call on all MLAs to support and protect free collective bargaining. “It is crucial for the government to follow the established processes laid out in the signed contracts. Both locals assert their readiness to proceed with the agreed-upon steps, and the ball is now in the government’s court,” concluded McAllister.