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‘This law was unjust’: N.B unions oppose amendment to essential services in Nursing Homes Act

3 unions in N.B. taking issue with proposed changes in nursing home laws
Three unions are taking issue with proposed changes to New Brunswick’s essential services in nursing homes law. The unions accused the government of trying to impose bargaining restrictions on registered nurses and nursing home workers. Megan Yamoah reports.

The New Brunswick Nurses Union, the Council Of Nursing Home Unions and the Canadian Union Of Public Employees banded together on Thursday to let the conservative minority government know they oppose the amendments to the essential services in Nursing Homes Act.

“It’s time we get a fair wage in this province and Mr. Higgs you need to recognize that,” said Brian Watson, the President of CUPE New Brunswick.

READ MORE: N.B. moves to give nursing home workers conditional binding arbitration rights

The provincial government introduced the changes after the original legislation was overturned by the Labour and Employment board. Registered nurses are now included in the proposed act and will be considered essential workers.

The New Brunswick Nurses Union says the amendment would impact around 425 registered nurses who work in nursing homes.

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“This is exactly what the labour board suggested we should do. We’ve included the nurses because that’s what they recommended, so we should be able to work through this and come up with a number that will qualify as essential services,” said Blaine Higgs, the Premier of New Brunswick.

READ MORE: N.B. moves to give nursing home workers conditional binding arbitration rights

The Nurses Union says for the past year they have been seeking a new collective agreement that they feel is fair and constitutional.

“A way to solve all of these issues is to get back to the bargaining table and bargain fairly and collectively with all of the unions that are there rather than trying to change legislation by the stroke of a pen and be very heavy handed when it comes to workers in this province,” said Paula Doucet, the President of the New Brunswick Nurses Union.

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Sharon Teare, the president of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions, says the restrictions in the bill make recruiting and retaining staff challenging.

“People are going to say not only is my work hard, I have to go to work and struggle in poor working conditions, but then I have to struggle in order to negotiate a fair collective agreement so I can feel good about the job I’m doing,” said Teare.

The 30 thousand members of CUPE New Brunswick say they want to remove the imposed essential service law that came into effect in 2008 under the Liberal government.

“From day one this law was unnecessary, unjust and unconstitutional,” said Watson.

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The minister of social development says the safety of residents is the top priority.

“We should be able to negotiate a fair settlement and essential services legislation is about designation numbers and we need to have those. If the union wishes to go forward with strike action we need to know our residents are protected,” said Dorothy Shephard, the NB Minister of Social Development.

As it now stands workers can strike as early as January 3rd 2020.

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