Over 5,000 striking frontline workers, CUPE leaders from other provinces and supporters marched on the New Brunswick legislature to send a message to Premier Blaine Higgs and the governing PC Party. That message was heard loud and clear as it was reported by news outlets that the crowd noise and speeches from outside could be heard throughout the building.
MLAs were returning to the legislature on what was supposed to be the opening day of the new legislative session, however, Premier Higgs announced earlier that they would cancel the throne speech and extend the previous session. Many expected this move would set the stage for the announcement of back to work legislation. However, no such legislation was announced.
The rally began after two separate marches of frontline workers and supporters converged on the steps of the legislature. CUPE NB President Steve Drost addressed the crowd, reminding frontline workers that they hold the power when they work together. He introduced the presidents of all 10 striking locals, who called upon their members in the crowd to make themselves heard. CUPE Maritimes Regional Director Sandy Harding called Premier Higgs out to a bargaining table that was set up at the steps and read out the last bargaining positions before Higgs had walked away from negotiations.
CUPE’s National President Mark Hancock delivered an energetic speech, calling out Premier Higgs for his allegiances to the billionaire Irving Family and correcting the premier on his claim that the strike is being run by the “CUPE National machine”. “The CUPE machine,” Hancock said, “is each and every one of you who voted to take strike action and are walking picket lines until the government pays you what you’re worth.” National Secretary Charles Fleury also addressed the crowd, strengthening the striking workers’ resolve proclaiming that “sometimes we have no choice but to take to the streets, and we’ll stay on the streets until we get the contract we deserve.”
The province-wide strike will enter its sixth day tomorrow. CUPE New Brunswick’s Central Bargaining Team is still waiting for the Higgs government to return to the bargaining table.