New Brunswick

Province wrong to stop paying EAs designated essential during strike, board rules

The labour board has ruled in favour of the Canadian Union of Public Employees after it challenged the government for not paying designated-essential educational assistants.

Board sided with educational assistants' union after it filed a complaint against New Brunswick government

New Brunswick Education Minister Dominic Cardy says the 45 per cent designated educational assistants should not be going to school, but they will get paid. (CBC)

The New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board has ruled in favour of the Canadian Union of Public Employees after it challenged the government for not paying educational assistants designated essential during a strike.

Over the weekend, the province locked out all non-essential educational assistants, known as EAs, who are part of a strike by thousands of provincial government employees that began Friday. Striking employees do not get paid.

But when the province decided to have students learn from home, the 45 per cent of EAs designated essential and therefore unable to join the strike were asked to stay home without pay.

The labour board decided this was against the law and asked the province to cease and desist immediately.

An order says refusing to allow essential EAs to work, and refusing to pay them, is against labour law.

In a post on Facebook, CUPE Local 2745 said lawyers for the union made their case at a virtual hearing Monday afternoon. The union says designated workers could return to their workplace Tuesday.

But Education Minister Dominic Cardy is asking EAs not to go to school. He said teachers and students are working from home because with custodians out, cleaning standards cannot be maintained.

"We're asking them not to come to work, that the labour board ... ruling absolutely stands, so their pay isn't affected at all," he told Information Morning Fredericton.

He did not say why the province was not paying essential EAs, but said the education system will try to integrate them into home learning.

"We have to make sure that we have to be able to integrate them into something we can do to help support home learning, if that ends up being possible," he said.

Cardy previously said the 1,700 EAs designated essential would not be enough to keep children learning well from schools, and the province has ordered all schools to teach remotely because CUPE's strike schedule has been "unpredictable."

'In it to win it'

Local 2745 president Theresa McAllister said that over the weekend, the designated EAs received an email saying "there was no work available for them to do," since students will be learning remotely. That's when CUPE decided to file the complaint.

McAllister said the union asked workers to go into schools Tuesday, but their respective schools said stay home and you will be paid.

McAllister said the favourable decision has boosted morale for those on the picket lines.

"It has really boosted their spirits, that we're in it to win it," she said in an interview.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton