Community residents and businesses in the Allardville area in northeastern New Brunswick and CUPE members across the province are showing strong support for the 23 CUPE local 4193 members locked out of the regional solid waste landfill by their employer.
In just over a week, CUPE members going door-to-door collected 1,200 signatures of support from residents in Allardville and neighbouring Saint-Sauveur, the two communities where the locked-out workers live. The 2016 census recorded almost 3,000 people living in the two rural communities.
In the three weeks since the lockout began, messages and photos of solidarity from CUPE members across New Brunswick have flooded the Union News Channel Facebook group. Provincial and regional union leaders have walked the picket with the CUPE local 4193 members. The top two CUPE national leaders sent a video message of solidarity. Local businesses including the Club l’âge d’or and l’Epicerie du coin in Allardville, the Club l’âge d’or and Ultramar garage in Saint-Sauveur, and KAAT Autosales in Rogersville and others have donated funds, meals and other supports to the members on the picket.
Serge Plourde, president of CUPE 4193 and a labourer at the landfill told the NB Media Co-op that “with all the support of the citizens, the community and the locals of other unions the members are feeling strong.”
Among the many union locals giving financial support was CUPE 508 City of Fredericton outside workers, who came to an agreement quickly with the city after Fredericton residents objected to the City’s use of scabs (“replacement workers”).
In Alllardville, after the locked-out CUPE 4193 workers successfully prevented the scabs from entering their work site on Feb 19, the Chaleur Regional Service Commission (CRSC) obtained an injunction to limit the picket outside the Red Pine landfill to six CUPE members. They are now driving the scabs past the union members on the picket to keep the site open each day. The CRSC said it would not return to the table until March 12, a month after issuing the lockout notice.
As reported earlier this week, the CUPE 4193 contract expired in December 2017 and negotiations broke down when the workers refused the employer’s demand to change the collective agreement to allow the employer to ask workers to produce a doctor’s note for the first sick day taken. The employer is also demanding the ability to limit unpaid leave for union activities.
Many comments on Facebook mentioned that doctors do not want employers to make their workers get doctor’s notes. The health system in the province is already overburdened. The premier of New Brunswick recently was forced by public outrage to withdraw cuts to emergency room services in six rural hospitals. Coincidentally, this week the Premier of Nova Scotia is considering removing the requirement for provincial government employees to provide doctor’s notes when taking a sick day.
The Red Pine solid waste landfill treats garbage from the entire northeast region of the province, from Miramichi to Campbellton. CUPE NB has set up an online website for residents of the region to send letters to politicians from the local communities on the board of the Chaleur Regional Service Commission. The CRSC board voted to authorize the lockout and contract the scab labour.
The list of members of the board of directors of CRSC is on the this website. The board members are the mayors of the city of Bathurst, the town of Beresford, the four rural villages of Belledune, Petit-Rocher, Nigadoo, and Pointe-Verte, and the chairpersons of four Local Service Districts. The CRSC board chair is Belledune mayor Joseph Noel.
“Board members of the CRSC must end this lockout. If they don’t have the courage to intervene and fix this situation, we are asking them to resign from the CRSC,” said Serge Plourde in a CUPE NB media release on March 4.
The election for new municipal representatives will be on May 11.
One lesson learned by City Councillors in Fredericton is that the public does not like unfair labour practices such as contracting scab labour. Using scabs is bad practice in labour relations and strongly discouraged by the United Nations International Labour Organization. It is illegal in Quebec and British Columbia.
The CUPE 4193 picket will continue every weekday from 8am to 5pm at 1300 Route 360 in Allardville until the workers are back on the job. Although the injunction limits the picket to six members, CUPE NB is encouraging other CUPE locals to come by to show solidarity. A warming shelter is on site for conversations with the members.
Susan O’Donnell is a member of the NB Media Co-op editorial board.