A rally staged outside of Saint John Laundry by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Saturday looked to raise awareness around what they’re calling the growing problem of workplace bullying.
“Bullying is going on across the province in all sectors,” said CUPE NB first vice-president Steve Drost. “All these workers want to do, myself included, is be able to go to work, do our jobs.
The rally comes after workers staged a walkout over concerns about workplace bullying and harassment.
Employees of the laundry facility that supplies hospitals and nursing homes across the province are back to work after the New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board (NBLEB) ruled the walkout constituted an illegal strike.
But CUPE NB president Brien Watson says it’s clear that there are issues inside the facility.
“When every employee comes out of that building and every employee has a story, there’s something definitely wrong,” Watson said.
The New Brunswick government operates the facility through Service New Brunswick and did not immediately return a request for comment on Saturday.
On Friday, Service New Brunswick spokesperson Valerie Kilfoil said the province couldn’t discuss matters pertaining to individual employees.
Nursing home worker and rank-and-file CUPE member Tammy Nadeau says the concerns over working conditions are not unique to Saint John Laundry.
The province’s 4,000 unionized nursing home workers are currently locked in a bitter contract dispute with the government, citing pay and working conditions as the most pressing issues.
Nadeau is hoping a collaborative approach can be found to help address workers’ concerns.
“We’re just hoping that the employer will sit down and understand what we’re saying instead of saying ‘that’s not true, all we care about is quantity, quantity, quantity, get the work done,'” Nadeau said.
“So we’re going to stand up for our rights respectfully and we’re hoping that the managers will stand up with us and say, ‘no, you’re right — we’re going to work together and make this a better workplace.'”
When asked about the possibility of future job action at the facility, Watson said the union is hoping to avoid it.
“We hope that we can resolve this in a way, now that everybody’s back to work, that we can go through the system properly … and get to their problem here and try to alleviate that, and make the working conditions better for them in there,” he said.