The two top officials of Canada’s largest union sent a solidarity message from Ottawa yesterday to 23 CUPE local 4193 members on a picket outside the Red Pine landfill in Allardville south of Bathurst.
On Feb. 13, the Chaleur Regional Service Commission (CRSC) locked the workers out. On Feb. 19, CRSC staff attempted to enter the landfill with scabs (“replacement workers”) but the workers held the picket line, forcing the early closure of the landfill and disrupting garbage service for northern New Brunswick.
In response, on Feb. 21, the CRSC obtained a court injunction to limit the picket to six CUPE members at one time. One reason for having a picket outside a worksite is to keep scabs from entering. The intent of the injunction is to allow the scabs inside to keep the landfill in operation.
In their video message from Ottawa, CUPE National President Mark Hancock told CUPE 4193 members they “have the full support” of all the CUPE members across the country and a “strong healthy strike fund.” National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury added that CUPE national will be supporting the workers and CUPE NB leaders and staff as long as it takes to get a good collective agreement.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is Canada’s largest union, with 700,000 members across the country including more than 26,000 in New Brunswick.
In April last year, Hancock spoke at a CUPE rally in Fredericton outside office of New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs. At the time, he told the NB Media Co-op: “We’re tired of our workers paying the price for government mis-management.” Referencing Higgs, Hancock said that: “CUPE has the resources to meet them in the courts, and the people to meet them in the streets.”
The CRSC has not responded to the NB Media Co-op’s requests for information about the company they contracted to provide “replacement workers.”
Last Saturday, the City of Fredericton brought in AFIMAC scabs from outside the province to replace locked-out CUPE 508 members but Fredericton residents voiced strong objections to City Council. The two sides came back to the table on Monday and an agreement was quickly ratified. The outside workers were back on the job the next morning, clearing snow and fixing broken water mains.
Unlike the Fredericton lockout situation, the Allardville landfill is in a very rural location, away from a major population centre. It is not yet clear how local residents there will respond to the presence of scabs from outside the province at their landfill while local workers are locked out.
Susan O’Donnell is a member of the NB Media Co-op Editorial Board.