The Canadian Union of Public Employees and the 2,000 licensed practical nurses (LPNs) it represents are back in the spotlight.
Last week it was the LPNs initiating the discussion by saying their issues weren’t being heard by the union. Now CUPE is blaming government for issues that have gone unresolved for years.
Licensed practical nurses in New Brunswick are paid on average 14 per cent less than their colleagues in the rest of Atlantic Canada. That was just one of the issues put forth by CUPE Local 1252, which represents about 2,000 of the province’s LPNs.
“The Higgs government does not value LPNs or any other employee who provides public service by coming to the bargaining with zeroes,” said CUPE 1252 president Norma Robinson.
Robinson was referring to collective bargaining and wage increases, or lack thereof.
Another issue for CUPE is a 2017 review of LPN classification. The union says that remains unresolved as well.
“LPNs provide 90 per cent of the scope of a registered nurse but they only receive 64 per cent of the wages,” said Robinson. “Should they not receive equal pay for equal work?”
An underlying issue is that as many as 85 per cent of LPNs in the union are said to be in favour of being represented by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, better known as the Carpenters Union. That application has been dismissed by the Labour and Employment Board but the issue hasn’t.
CUPE says it’s doing its job.
“The union representing LPNs have represented, defended, supported and advocated on their behalf daily,” Robinson said.
Some LPNs don’t agree. They use the 2017 classification review as an example.
“In our collective agreement in Article 40.05 it states that the JAQ (classification process) process was not to exceed six months so we don’t understand why a grievance wasn’t put in,” said licensed practical nurse Nicole Tompkins, one of the people leading the charge to leave CUPE.
They are steadfast in their desire to leave.
“We continue to ask the government to step in and we’ll see how that goes,” she said.
The union argues representation isn’t the issue.
“We’re still dealing with the same Higgs government,” said Robinson. “We have to be mindful of that. It doesn’t matter where you are or who is doing the talking, the Higgs government is not coming forward to have those conversations.”
CUPE and the LPNs are due to meet in the next couple of weeks.
Global News has reached out to the New Brunswick government but has not received a response by the time this article was published.