March 14, 2019 3:56 pm
Updated: March 14, 2019 5:13 pm

Mediator temporarily halts New Brunswick nursing home contract talks

WATCH: A mediator has hit the pause button on negotiations between CUPE and the New Brunswick Nursing Home Association. As Morganne Campbell reports, it's the latest development in a heated disagreement between nursing home owners and their unionized workers.

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A mediator has hit the pause button on negotiations between CUPE and the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes.

Talks resumed Monday, but the union has rejected a three-year contract with a wage increase of 10.5 cents an hour every six months. A deal was already turned down last May.

“That’s actually an insult to the bargaining team that represents those over 4,000 members.” said Sharon Teare, president of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions (NBCNHU).

“Cost of living inflated by 2.1 per cent in 2018, and 2.3 per cent the year before that. If workers accept the employer’s proposal, there would be a real wage loss of above 2.4 per cent.”

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But the government is singing a much different tune. The minister of social development says they’ve put an “enhanced offer” on the table that was different from the one previously voted on

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

“I am not lying to you, an enhanced offer was put on the table,” said Minister Dorothy Shephard. “I know that an enhanced offer was put on the table and it’s been discussed.”

But the union is crying foul, saying no such offer was ever made.

“It’s an outright lie,” said Teare “They can explain that to the citizens of New Brunswick.”

The department says the union is downplaying its asks to the media.

“They have demanded wage increases of 20 per cent over four years plus additional compensation adjustments. This is not reasonable,” added Shephard.

The Liberals are supporting the nursing home workers even though these same contract talks broke down during their time in office.

“Even if they turn down an offer, it doesn’t mean negotiations are over and this is what this government has to realize. Negotiation is around a table,” said Denis Landry, the interim leader of the official opposition.

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

Union members have voted in favor of a strike mandate but a temporary stay has prevented that from happening for at least 10 days as the province awaits a judicial review into a 2018 labour board decision that deems nursing home workers not an essential service.

Meantime, both sides are expected to meet one more time this week. It won’t be around the bargaining table but at the Court of Queen’s Bench, where the government intends to argue that the stay should remain in place until a judicial review is heard.

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