March 11, 2019 7:06 pm

‘We can just hope and pray’: Families caught in crosshairs of N.B. nursing home workers dispute

WATCH: A court-ordered stay preventing workers from job action at 45 of the province's nursing homes has given families a temporary sigh of relief.

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Some families are breathing a sigh of relief after a job action has been at least temporarily avoided for 4,100 Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) nursing home workers in New Brunswick.

Members of the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes and CUPE were back at the bargaining table Monday, but there is still no deal in place.

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However, a late-day announcement from the province on Monday says Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard will join the two sides at the bargaining table.

“At present, negotiations are ongoing, and it would be inappropriate to discuss any further details concerning the negotiations at this time,” the province said in the news release.

READ MORE: Union says temporary court order delaying nursing home workers’ strike a ‘major, major mistake’

Lorie Steeves’ 76-year-old mother is a resident at the Kenneth E. Spencer Memorial Home.

Steeves says the 10-day temporary stay order, preventing job action by workers at 45 of the 46 nursing homes across the province, will give families time to prepare for the possibility of a strike.

“We can breathe,” she said. “We have 10 days to figure things out, to be able to give and provide the best care we can.”

Lorie Steeves says there’s temporary relief but knows there’s uncertainty about what could happen as a result of the nursing home negotiations.

Callum Smith / Global News

Simon Ouellette, a spokesperson for CUPE, says protests and demonstrations were held across the province on Monday in response to the court-ordered stay.

“You didn’t help the residents out because what you’re doing is you’re putting us back in the same situation that we don’t want to be in,” said CUPE Local 1603 president Tammy Nadeau following a demonstration in Saint John.

“We have a workload issue, we have a retention issue, we have wages, and you’re just going to say, ‘Well, sorry we’re just going to protect the residents?’ Well, you’re not because you’re putting us into the same situation that we want to improve.”

Steeves says that while it’s temporary relief to know there’s no immediate threat of job action, there are still a lot of questions.

“There’s a great deal of uncertainty,” she said. “This is something that, as a loved one, we can just hope and pray.”

WATCH: Nursing home workers strike looming in New Brunswick

She says she’ll be in to help her mom and other residents as much as possible if a strike does occur but knows it won’t be the same.

Gerry Mallais, whose 84-year-old aunt is a resident at Villa Providence Shédiac, says he’s also relieved there’s some temporary relief as a result of the temporary stay order.

“We’re just hoping something gets resolved,” he said.

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