For labour and union activists, the highlight of opposition day on May 30 was the successful vote on Motion 36 to “urge the government to work with the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes and provide the Association the assurances necessary for them to agree to enter into binding arbitration to resolve this dispute and enter into a collective agreement.” As reported previously, the opposition parties have only several hours on Thursday afternoons when the House is sitting to move their motions and bills forward for a vote in the Legislature.
Debate on Motion 36, developed in collaboration with all opposition parties, was intended for the previous opposition day on May 16, but the government “ran the clock” with rambling speeches to delay the debate and vote. On May 30, the Motion was approved by a vote of 25 to 21. All government MLAs voted against. People’s Alliance leader Kris Austin abstained after having previously introduced an amendment that failed to pass. The Liberals, the Greens and the remaining PANB MLAs voted in favour. The motion is non-binding but it does send a strong message that all opposition parties want the dispute to end soon through binding arbitration, an approach also favoured by CUPE.
The CBC reported that earlier in the day, 200 CUPE members and supporters demonstrated outside the Legislature in support of nursing home workers. The NB Media Co-op has previously filed reports on the labour dispute, including a rally outside the courthouse in Fredericton on March 15, the rally for fair wages on March 19, the demonstration on April 12 by 500 CUPE members and supporters at a government building, and the occupation of the office of the Social Development minister in early May.
The two other opposition motions debated on May 30 were Motion 8, to maintain service levels in regional and rural hospitals, that passed unanimously with an amendment by the government, and Motion 47 to restore the SEED student summer employment program to its 2018 funding level. The debate on that Motion will likely continue on the next opposition day, June 6.
Susan O’Donnell is a member of the NB Media Co-op editorial board.