Public and private sector union members rallied outside the offices of MLAs across the province on Monday over the passing of Bill 23 on Friday.
The bill generated controversy when it was first introduced by Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Trevor Holder in late November in part because it includes allowing for unionized, non-unionized workers and casual employees to fill designated positions during strikes.
“This is not about favouring one side, this is about essential services that have been agreed to by both sides and making sure those essential services are delivered,” Holder said in late November.
In an interview on Monday, Unifor Local 4504 president Ernie Caissie called the bill “scab legislation,” and said Holder’s argument that this would ensure a continuation of essential services doesn’t hold water.
“I’ve been involved in labour for the last 25-30 years and to my knowledge I’ve never seen that happen, where essential workers didn’t go in and do the job,” he said.
At a protest outside MLA Jill Green’s office in Fredericton, CUPE 1190 provincial president Jonathan Guimond told Global News that the legislation was “not fair.”
“It takes away most of the rights for the striking folks I mean, to bring somebody else in to do work, where we already agreed on who was gonna do this work in the event of a strike, to have the authority to bring in whoever whenever … that’s not fair,” he said.
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At a demonstration outside Holder’s office in Saint John, CUPE Maritimes regional director Sandy Harding said the bill will have a negative impact on recruitment and retention in the private sector.
“We will look at a constitional challenge, we’re inquiring about that because we believe some of the changes are unconstitutional, and then we’re going to continue to fight back because this is wrong and this is only going to hurt our systems,” she said.
When asked for a response to the protests, Holder said he respects “any group or individual’s right to protest and peacefully assemble.”
“With respect to amendments made to the Public Service Labour Relations Act, I’ve said all I am going to say for the time being,” he said via an e-mailed statement.