CUPE members are keeping up their protest against the government’s attempt to remove their rights. About 500 CUPE members came out in force outside government buildings on King St. in Fredericton on April 12 to demand a fair wage for nursing home workers and all public service workers in New Brunswick.
About a month ago, an overwhelming majority of the 4,000 nursing home employees represented by CUPE voted in favour of a strike, after being without a contract for more than two years. In response to the strike vote, the Higgs government obtained a court order to prevent job action, and then refused the union’s demand for binding arbitration. The government’s offer at the bargaining table is well below the union demand for a wage increase representing about one dollar an hour for a resident attendant.
The April 12 rally was even bigger than the “Rally for Fair Wages” on March 19 outside the provincial legislature when the Higgs government tabled its budget. Speakers on April 12 included CUPE NB president Danny Légère and Sharon Teare, president of the NB Council of Nursing Home Unions.
CUPE National president Mark Hancock also spoke at the rally about the need to keep up the pressure on the government for fair wages. In an interview with the NB Media Co-op, Hancock said that the CUPE national office in Ottawa has its eye on the situation in New Brunswick because of the effective way that CUPE NB has engaged its members here. “It’s been decades, since 1992, since we’ve seen this level of engagement in New Brunswick,” Hancock said, adding that the model CUPE NB is using to organize members can be used across the country in other public sector struggles with government employers.
“We’re tired of our workers paying the price for government mis-management,” Hancock said. Referencing premier Higgs, he said that “CUPE has the resources to meet them in the courts, and the people to meet them in the streets.”
Also at the rally were Green Party representatives Megan Mitton (MLA, Memramcook-Tantramar) and Kevin Arseneau (MLA, Kent North). Green Party leader David Coon was in a meeting of the Standing Committee on Estimates and Fiscal Policy inside the legislature.
Susan O’Donnell is an editorial board member of the NB Media Co-op.