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N.B. union talks resume, Premier Blaine Higgs remains hopeful for a deal

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick government, CUPE resume talks' New Brunswick government, CUPE resume talks
WATCH: After days of no movement on either side of the ongoing labour dispute in New Brunswick, both sides have returned to the bargaining table. Premier Blaine Higgs says talks began on Nov. 11 and they are continuing. Nathalie Sturgeon has the story – Nov 12, 2021

Talks have resumed between the New Brunswick government and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Premier Blaine Higgs said the two sides had lengthy discussions on Nov. 11 and those continued on Friday.

“Well, we had meetings yesterday, and they went on for many hours, and we’re working on some language together in the agreement that I’m hopeful we’ll get resolved later today. It remains to be seen, it’s not confirmed yet, but I’m hopeful that we’ll find a resolution,” Higgs said.

The two sides have been in a stalemate over the issue of pensions for two locals. The province wants them to use the shared risk pension model, which the union says they do not want for the risk it places on the individual.

Read more: Liberal, Green leaders withdraw from COVID commitee as striking health-care workers forced back

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Earlier in the month, the government moved to force health-care workers back to the job under the emergency order.

The education sector has shut down and the online learning model isn’t ideal, according to several parents.

Click to play video: 'Schools close as thousands of New Brunswick public sector workers launch strike' Schools close as thousands of New Brunswick public sector workers launch strike
Schools close as thousands of New Brunswick public sector workers launch strike – Oct 29, 2021

Employees working under Local 963, the union representing workers at NB Liquor stores, have also taken a strike vote. On Thursday, union president Jamie Agnew confirmed they have returned to the table. If a deal can’t be reached, though, workers are scheduled to walk off the job on Nov. 16.

Read more: Workers at New Brunswick liquor agency vote to strike Nov. 16 if deal not reached

Despite the sense of hopefulness inside the legislature, outside CUPE members aimed to make themselves heard. A few dozen members picketing around the legislature gathered at the back door used by politicians, their aids, journalists and communications staff. The picketers used their horns, bells, voices and signs to send a message.

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One woman walking past journalists was heard saying, “I think we can go now, I think he got the message.”

Higgs says while negotiations don’t always go as planned, he felt optimistic going forward with the talks.

“Negotiations are an interesting issue. Is it really possible, yes that we could have a resolution by the end of the day, but I can’t give a for sure yes-or-no answer because negotiations have different twists and turns,” he said.

CUPE NB did take to social media to confirm they had returned to the table, but there was no clear sign as to when the two sides will emerge with news of a deal.

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