April 17, 2018 5:02 pm

Front-line staff at New Brunswick nursing home hold rally but premier is a no-show

WATCH: Workers at a Sackville nursing home are calling on the province to do something about their working conditions. Dozens of front-line staff staged a protest outside Drew Nursing Home on Tuesday, calling for changes in how they are treated and how facilities are run. Our Morganne Campbell was there and as she explains, the timing of this protest is no coincidence.

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Front-line staff members stood in the rain outside of the Drew Nursing Home in Sackville, calling for immediate change as to how seniors homes operate in the province.

“We often go home feeling like we haven’t done the best of our abilities that we can do. Everyone is tired, everyone goes home feeling bad, we have injuries, we don’t have enough care hours,” explains Amy Johnson, a resident attendant at the nursing home.

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It wasn’t by chance that staff were rallying outside the home. New Brunswick’s Premier Brian Gallant was scheduled for a special announcement at the home but the premier sent MLA Bernard LeBlanc in his place.

READ MORE: New Brunswick premier announces $20M seniors’ funding after State of the Province address

The CUPE union members wanted to tell the premier that they’ve been without a collective agreement for the last 18 months when contract talks broke off — a conciliator has been appointed.

“Between now and the election on Sept. 24, we will be out there advocating for more hours of care, presently it’s 3.1 hours of care, we’re striving to get 3.5 hours of care that the seniors in this province certainly deserve,” explains Wayne Brown, the provincial president of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions.

Front-line staff members say they are overworked and underpaid, adding that they’re tired of the daily grind which includes what they refer to as the six-minute challenge. That’s six minutes to get a resident up, toileted, dressed and down to the dining room for breakfast.

READ MORE: Trudeau meets with Gallant, touts new Canada Workers Benefit program in New Brunswick

LeBlanc announced a $2.3-million grant for renovations at the home, and following that announcement, he recognized the union’s concerns with the current status of nursing homes in the province, reassuring them that relief is on the horizon.

“The government knows it’s a challenge, there’s no question about that, we know. And we’re trying to do our best,” said LeBlanc.

Not exactly the answer that union leaders are looking for, but both sides will return to the bargaining table at the end of the month.

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