Brien Watson was elected the new president of CUPE New Brunswick during a conference at the Fredericton Inn Saturday.
Watson, who has worked in the education sector as president in Local 380, is taking over for Daniel Légère, who has been at the helm for 14 years.
“I’m very emotional about this,” said Watson. “I’m still trying to catch my breath realizing what’s just happened.”
“I’m ready to go.”
Légère is retiring from union work to spend more time with is wife and grandchildren.
“I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be the president of the, well in my opinion, the best union in New Brunswick and the best union in Canada,” smiled Légère following the swearing in ceremony.
Légère leaves at a time when there’s frosty labour relations between the 4,100 nursing home employees and the province.
The workers voted in favour of a strike last month but a court order, though under appeal by the union, prevents them from hitting the picket line. Since then, they’ve been holding rallies across the province.
Both sides are struggling to find common ground. The union is asking for a 20 per cent wage increase over four years, while the government is committing to only four per cent.
Two weeks ago, the Higgs government agreed to binding arbitration but with rules. The union rejected the deal.
“On March 28th we gave a counter proposal to the binding arbitration and we were told we should expect something the following week well the following week has come and gone,” explains Sharon Teare, president of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Union.
The union has been told by the People’s Alliance that an answer is coming next week prior to the the New Brunswick Court of Appeal’s decision on whether the nursing home workers can strike.