Front-line workers are speaking out about the government’s handout of more than $100 million in electricity rebates to six paper mills, including three owned by J.D. Irving.
A CBC investigation revealed that the corporate welfare for big business to pay their power bills has been going on since 2012 and will continue in 2021.
Meanwhile, the Higgs government is refusing to negotiate fairly with public sector workers, who are losing money every year because their wages are not keeping up with the rising cost of living.
CUPE workers across the province made videos this week to share their thoughts about this situation, posted on the Facebook Union News Channel. Click on the name of the worker to watch their video and hear what they have to say.
Ellie Michel, healthcare administration worker: “Mr. Higgs – and I call you Mr. Higgs because you have not earned the title of Premier of our province – Do the right thing!”
Gary Burris, social worker: “Mr. HIggs, I’m not asking you to pay my power bills, my phone bills, or any other bills I have. I’m asking you to come back to the table to negotiate a fair collective agreement.”
Kellea Sangster, LPN: “Premier Higgs, I’m not asking for a subsidy. I’m simply asking for a fair wage to pay MY bills.”
Wanda McNaughton, nursing home worker: “Nobody is going to help me with my power bills!”
Marina Thornton, essential worker: “I’m disgusted, Mr. Higgs. You can give $100 million of our tax dollars to big corporations, while honest hard-working people like me suffer.”
Anne-renee Thomas, concierge du district scolaire: “Mr. Higgs, return to the negotiating table and make a better offer.”
Todd Hill, school intervention worker: “All I ask is that Mr. Higgs and his team come back to the table and negotiate a fair wage increase for our front-line workers who have kept this province going.”
Lisa Allen, LPN: “Premier Higgs, I’ve been a public sector worker since 1986, and I would love to be able to pay my power bill in full.”
Terry Crouse, healthcare worker: “I have a power bill, nobody helps me pay it. I do my best to get through on what I make.”
Shawn Gorman Wetmore, school bus driver: “We worked through the pandemic to keep this province going. We don’t have subsidies for anything.”
Amy Marshall, Licensed Practical Nurse: “Come back to the negotiating table and offer us a fair wage!”
Scottie Floyd, hospital worker: “I’m making monthly payments on what I owe for my power bill, plus the recent bill.”
Brian Harris, emergency medical dispatcher: “We’re being told ‘zero percent’ because you have no money, yet you have $100 million to give to companies like Irving. I’m not asking for subsidies or bags of money.”
Cidy McKeown, medical technician: “Give us a contract with a fair, decent wage.”
Mary Jardine, healthcare worker: “I have to go to work every day to pay taxes so Mr. Higgs can give them to his buddies.”
More than 8,000 CUPE members in New Brunswick are in a deadlock position with the Higgs government. By September they may be in a legal strike position. At the end of May, CUPE NB President Steve Drost gave Premier Higgs until Labour Day to come to the bargaining table with a fair offer, “or CUPE members will have to mount a province-wide coordinated action,” he said.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees is the largest public sector union in Canada and in New Brunswick.
Susan O’Donnell writes for the NB Media Co-op.
Access all of NB Media Co-op’s coverage of the events leading up to the CUPE strike here.
Read all of NB Media Co-op’s coverage of the 2021 CUPE strike here.