Today, CUPE Locals 1190 and 1251 held a press conference to expose blatant mismanagement of a health and safety incident, which happened at the Saint John Laundry facility earlier this week. The Saint John Laundry processes linens for nearly half of the province’s nursing homes and hospitals.

On March 3, the Saint John Laundry plant management acted in an unsafe manner towards the staff, the members of CUPE 1251 and 1190. “They mismanaged an emergency, which could have resulted in serious injury and even the death of employees,” said Chris Curran, President of CUPE 1251.

Chronology of events according to locals 1251 and 1190:

  • On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, a fire alarm at Saint John Laundry went off at 1:05 pm. The employees left their workstation and went outside to be roll-called to make sure everyone was out.
  • After being outside for only a short moment, management ordered the staff to re-enter the building, return to their positions and recommence work. This decision was made while the fire alarm was still ringing, and the fire department was not yet on site.
  • A few minutes after the employees were back inside, a decision was then made by management to urge everyone to exit the building after people smelled something burning. As the alarm was still ringing, pulling the fire alarm at that point was fruitless. Supervisors were running around in panic, screaming above the noise of the alarm and the machines trying to get all workers to go back outside immediately.
  • Once outside, no roll call was made. Workers and management had no idea if everyone had gotten out while the firefighters were entering the building.

“That is an industrial facility, processing on average 25 tons of linens per day. There is major amperage running for the machines in there, all kinds of strong chemicals, solvents and massive propane-run dryers,” said Brent Wiggins, President of CUPE 1190. “It’s extremely negligent for management to have demanded all workers go back in, minutes only after they were out, instead of waiting for firefighters. That is truly incompetent,” he added.

“It’s not the first time that management has shown ineptitude, disrespect and disregard for his employees,” said Chris Curran. “This month’s case is frightening. They completely disregarded the health and safety of their whole staff just to maintain productivity above all else.”

Following the incident, both locals sent letters to the Service New Brunswick Minister Mary Wilson demanding the following:

  1. The immediate termination of the management for the March 3 incident;
  2. An investigation of the incident; and
  3. An entire investigation into this toxic workplace, covering the ongoing issues, with a complete report provided to the locals.

More than 120 CUPE members currently work at the facility.