For the past three days, the office of New Brunswick’s minister of social development in Fredericton has seen more activity than usual. That’s because members of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions have been staging a peaceful occupation of the space, trying to get Minister Dorothy Shephard or Premier Blaine Higgs to meet and resolve their bargaining impasse.
Nursing home workers in New Brunswick have been without a collective agreement for over 30 months. When members voted 94% in support of strike action in early March, Sharon Teare, president of the council, said “We have exhausted all other avenues other than strike action. Members held demonstrations, leafleted their communities, lobbied MLAs, did radio and TV ads, and so on. The government and the Employer are leaving us with no choice but to strike.”
Almost immediately, the government used the courts strip the workers of their constitutional right to fair collective bargaining, including strikes. A stay on their right to strike has been granted at least until a judicial review of NB Essential Services in Nursing Homes Act starts on May 24th.
The occupiers are in good spirits and have expressed their gratitude to the CUPE locals, community members and MLAs who have shown their support for the peaceful demonstration. Security is preventing anyone new from gaining access to the office, but supporters have continued to rally outside and send in food and drink.
When employers like the Higgs government refuse to treat our members fairly, they aren’t just taking on one local or one province. CUPE’s 680,000 members stand in solidarity with the New Brunswick nursing home workers as they continue their fight. It’s time for Blaine Higgs and Dorothy Shephard to face these workers and get on with getting them the fair deal they deserve.