On behalf of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour (NBFL), and its 38,000 affiliated members, I would like to extend my best wishes to all workers in New Brunswick for a happy, healthy and safe new year.
I wanted to take this opportunity thank and recognize our working heroes. Health care and front-line workers who have and continue to work to keep us healthy, safe and to provide us with the essential services that we need during this pandemic.
The new year, like this past year, will bring with it challenges for workers in our province. Labour will continue to face employers and governments who use the courts and legislation to erode workers’ rights.
We have already seen it happening, as the Higgs government reintroduced legislation to narrow the scope of binding arbitration for police and firefighters. This goes against the Supreme Court ruling that freedom of association, as stated under Section 2 (d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, includes the right to either strike or have access to fair and independent binding arbitration.
The provincial government also announced that it is introducing a wage freeze for non-unionized public servants. It plans to follow suit when negotiating collective agreements with unionized workers. This goes against the recommendations made by the New Brunswick Federation of Labour to the All-Party Cabinet Committee on Novel Coronavirus in June 2020. New Brunswick’s central voice for organized labour recommended that the public sector lead the economic recovery by investing more, not less, in public services. This approach would stimulate the economy while addressing long-standing inequalities that have been exposed by the pandemic.
The pandemic has demonstrated the volatility of the private sector to endure even brief periods of economic disruption. Many businesses have had to turn to government for assistance to keep afloat. Public sector investment continues to be crucial in leading the way out of the pandemic.
The pandemic has also demonstrated that our long-term care homes are under pressure because they are under-resourced, under-staffed and overlooked. Front-line care workers have been sounding the alarm for years about how our nursing homes are in crisis. This needs to change. The provincial government should conduct a public inquiry and participate in setting national standards for the sector.
Many of our working heroes work at poverty level wages and don’t have the same benefits that many of us enjoy, like paid sick days. Changes to existing legislation are needed to improve their working conditions. Our working heroes deserve 10 days of paid sick leave per year and raising minimum wage to ensure that they, and their families, are not living in poverty.
The New Brunswick Federation of Labour, and its affiliated members, will continue to forge ahead in the New Year. We will continue to stand and defend workers rights. We will continue to work with political parties to make it easier for unorganized workers to join a union. We will continue to demand that organized labour be a stakeholder and that our voices are heard by decision-makers. Finally, the NBFL will hold our governments and elected representatives accountable in 2021 should they decide to continue with their attacks on working people in our province.
The labour movement in New Brunswick is at a crossroads. Collectively, we have a choice to make. Do we continue to have our standards of living and our working conditions eroded? Or do we demand to be given our place at the table and to have our voices heard?
It is the New Brunswick Federation of Labour’s New Year’s wish that that all workers in our province stay safe as we wait for the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine and that our communities thrive.
For additional information, please contact
New Brunswick Federation of Labour
(506) 381-8969 (cell)