Thirty groups have signed an open letter to New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs condemning the use of the Emergency Measures Act to criminalize the strike action of more than 2,000 healthcare workers in New Brunswick. The order forced the workers to return to work, setting a dangerous precedent for unionized workers.
The letter, signed by the Wolastoq Grand Council, anti-poverty, social justice, cultural, environmental and farmers’ organizations, has been sent to all Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in New Brunswick and affected CUPE locals.
CUPE launched a legal challenge against Higgs’ order, which remains before the courts. It remains to be seen if CUPE will continue this court challenge given that strike action has been suspended. In a recent interview, CUPE’s lawyer Joel Michaud noted that the union is waiting for members to vote on the wage package that is before them.
On Saturday, November 13, CUPE’s central bargaining team announced they had arrived at a proposed wage agreement with the Higgs government and had discussed it with seven CUPE local bargaining teams who had agreed to present the wage proposal to their members to vote.
Details of the wage package will be released after members vote on it later this week.
“Most workers had been without a contract for over three, four years, so I am pleased they have an agreement they can vote on in the coming days,” said Stephen Drost, President of CUPE NB.
Late in 2020, Higgs had announced his intentions to impose a wage freeze on all public sector workers. “Despite the pandemic pressure, the recruitment and retention crisis, despite CUPE’s repeated appeals to reason, Higgs did not want to offer fair wages to workers,” said Drost.
More than 20 000 CUPE members were involved in what has become New Brunswick’s biggest legal general strike.
CUPE says its goal is to obtain real wage improvements that go above the cost of living.
“This is key to improve New Brunswick’s public services, services that we need now more than ever as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Drost.
Read the NB Media Co-op’s coverage of the CUPE strike here.
Tracy Glynn is an organizer with Solidarité Fredericton and Abram Lutes in the provincial coordinator of the Common Front for Social Justice.