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New Brunwick nursing home workers vote to approve new contract

Click to play video 'Children in Riverview, N.B., offer encouragement to elderly amidst coronavirus pandemic' Children in Riverview, N.B., offer encouragement to elderly amidst coronavirus pandemic
Worried about their nanny being isolated inside her nursing home, a group of children in Riverview, N.B., thought they would offer some encouraging words on Friday.

A majority of New Brunswick’s unionized nursing home workers have voted to ratify a new agreement between their bargaining team and the provincial government.

The NB Council of Nursing Home Unions (NBCNHU), which represents 4,400 workers in 51 nursing homes across the province, announced the result in a press release on Monday.

Read more: Voting on final contract for New Brunswick nursing home workers stopped

The NBCNHU said voting on the tentative agreement reached on May 26, 2020, has been held over the past two weeks through a vote to accept or refuse the contract.

Forty-five of the 51 local unions voted to accept the agreement. Six voted to reject the deal.

Voting percentages were not disclosed and the six homes who voted against the deal were not named by the NBCNHU.

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The six-year agreement would cover a time period between October 2016 and October 2022.

Details on the agreement were not available, although CBC New Brunswick has reported that the contract includes wage increases set at “1.25 per cent in the first year, 1.5  per cent in years two through four, and two per cent in years five and six.”

“We all agree, this deal does not fix all the working (condition) issues in our field,” said Sharon Teare, president of NBCNHU, in a press release.

“For those 6 homes that have rejected the deal, we will reach out to them in order to determine what our next step will be.”

Click to play video 'New Brunswick government narrowly passes legislation affecting nursing homes' New Brunswick government narrowly passes legislation affecting nursing homes
New Brunswick government narrowly passes legislation affecting nursing homes

The vote to ratify means that a lengthy labour dispute is almost over.

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The last contract for New Brunswick nursing home workers had expired in 2016 and the workers had rejected a previous tentative agreement in 2018.

Talks between the two sides broke down last winter and 90 per cent of nursing home workers voted to strike in March 2019.

Read more: New Brunswick Premier now says essential workers deserve federal funds amid coronavirus crisis

But shortly before those strikes were set to begin, the provincial government secured a court order that barred them from walking off the job.

A series of legal challenges saw the New Brunswick Court of Appeal ultimately side with the union, upholding the workers’ right to strike.

However, a strike did not occur.

In a statement, Dorothy Shephard, New Brunswick’s minister of social services, said that she has always been optimistic that a settlement could be reached.

“I am very pleased with the results so far,” Shephard said in a statement.

“I wish to thank everyone involved in the negotiating process for all their hard work and dedication. I look forward to the continued partnership between the province and our nursing home workers.”

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