New Brunswick nurses union set to vote on strike this week

NBNU Presidnet Paula Doucet says a strike vote for the province's nurses starts Dec. 3. Travis Fortnum / Global News

The New Brunswick Nurses Union is set to take a strike vote on Dec. 3, according to its president, Paula Doucet.

The union has rejected two offers from the province for a collective agreement. Doucet says the union is not bargaining at the moment and has not received any offer since the last one was rejected.

She said votes will take place until Dec. 5, and will be counted on Dec. 6 with the New Brunswick labour board, describing the decision to take a strike vote as a difficult one.

Read more: ‘It’s really serious’: Nurses across New Brunswick say they’ve passed the breaking point

“It’s not an easy decision,” she said by phone on Tuesday.

Premier Blaine Higgs said the government has not received a counteroffer either.

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“You’d expect there to be a counter and then you’d get into negotiation with respect to the counter,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s a case of, ‘Well, give us a counter and we’ll go from there.'”

Workers in two bargaining units within New Brunswick Nurses Union (NBNU) have worked without a contract since Dec. 31, 2018.

There’s been a recruitment and retention problem in the province for years, but members say the COVID-19 pandemic has made the weight of the profession almost too much to bear.

Read more: N.B. communities want action on nursing shortage

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said conversations have been happening whether those were official or not.

This is the second union to take strike votes — with CUPE holding a 16-day strike in November — amid rounds of collective bargaining.

Finance Minister Ernie Steeves said it needs everybody back at the table.

“The nurses have to know we value them,” he said. “They have a tremendously hard job and we know we have to step up.

“We’ll get it worked out. We have to get it worked out.”

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