January 2 is a sad milestone for nursing home workers. It marks the deadline given by the Court of Queen’s Bench to the provincial government to pass legislation that respects workers rights to free collective bargaining. Rather than pass such legislation, the Higgs government, supported by Austin’s People’s Alliance, further trampled on the rights of these workers.
“Not only was the right to strike taken away from these workers but their ability to have all outstanding issues in the collective agreement objectively ruled on by an independent third party arbitrator was stripped away from them as well,” says Daniel Legere, President of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour.
The previous Essential Services in Nursing Home Act had been found by the courts to be a violation of nursing home workers’ constitutional right to free collective bargaining. The new version of the Essential Services in Nursing Home Act, adopted on December 20, 2019, maintains that nursing home workers cannot strike and adds registered nurses working in nursing homes as essential workers. It allows for limited binding arbitration by mandating that the arbitrator consider the provincial government’s ability to pay for any increases in staffing levels, fair wage adjustments and improved working conditions.
“The restrictions on binding arbitration have put our long-term care nurses together with our public sector nurses and by doing so, removes the ability to compare wages to other jurisdictions and ultimately keeps New Brunswick segregated from the rest of Canada. Mr. Higgs and his government are making an already desperate recruitment and retention situation even worse,” said Paula Doucet, president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union.
“We must ask ourselves: did Bill 17 help bring in more caregivers in our sector? Absolutely not. Bill 17 was made to weaken nursing home workers’ ability to get a fair deal and does nothing to help residents get improved care. The New Year begins, and still, Government has not made a single move solve the staffing crisis in our sector,” said Sharon Teare, President of the NB Council of Nursing Home Unions (CUPE)
“Workers and their right to free collective bargaining is under attack by the Higgs and Austin anti-worker agenda. Workers will come together and stand up for their rights,” concludes Legere.
(506) 381-8969 (cell)
President, NBCNHU (CUPE)