New Brunswick

Six-year nursing home contract includes wage increases of 9.75 per cent

A tentative agreement for thousands of nursing home workers in New Brunswick includes proposed wage increases of 9.75 per cent over six years, according to a summary obtained by CBC News.

Ratification votes happening over the coming weeks

A tentative agreement for thousands of New Brunswick nursing home workers includes wage increases totaling 9.75 per cent over six years. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

A tentative agreement for thousands of nursing home workers in New Brunswick includes proposed wage increases of 9.75 per cent over six years, according to a summary obtained by CBC News. 

The agreement was reached last month, more than a year after 4,100 nursing home workers around the province represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees were on the verge of striking.

The details were previously not known, as all sides agreed to keep them confidential until ratified by workers in the 51 non-profit homes.

Sharon Teare, president of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions, declined to comment Thursday beyond saying union members are holding ratification votes at homes between this week and July 5. She said results of the votes will be known July 6.

"Whether it's ratified or not, it's the members who have the final say," Teare said in an interview last month.

Dave MacLean, a spokesperson for the Department of Social Development, said in an email Thursday that the province would not comment on the content of the tentative agreement.

Jodi Hall, executive director of the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes, declined to comment. The association serves as the employer in contract talks.

Sharon Teare, president of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions, says ratification votes are taking place over the coming weeks with results expected July 6. (CBC)

The workers include licensed practical nurses, resident attendants, dietary and laundry workers and some clerical workers. Their last contract expired in October 2016. The workers had rejected a previous tentative agreement in 2018. 

The 13-page document outlines changes in the latest tentative agreement running from October 2016 to April 2022.

According to the document, the wage increases are 1.25 per cent in the first year, 1.5  per cent in years two through four, and two per cent in years five and six. 

The increases are close to the "final offer" from the province last fall, which funds nursing homes, but below the 20 per cent sought by the union over four years.

The final offer had included wage increases over four years of one, 1.25, 1.5 and 1.75 per cent. The rejected 2018 tentative agreement included increases of one per cent annually for four years.

If the new agreement is ratified, workers would receive the wage increases retroactively. 

The document includes several examples, such as a licensed practical nurse who has worked full-time since October 2016. That person would receive a lump sum of about $4,688. Resident attendants would receive about $4,040.

The agreement would also boost 'shift premiums', a lump-sum payment paid out on top of wages for working certain shifts.

An evening shift premium would rise from $5.60 to $9.84. The night shift premium would rise from $7.40 to $12.66. A 12-hour night shift would rise from $13 to $22.50. 

Committee to reduce sick leave use

The tentative agreement would establish a committee "to strive to reduce sick leave usage" to four per cent of hours worked by October 2022 and look at the reasons behind sick time use. 

Premier Blaine Higgs had repeatedly pointed to sick time used by workers as a concern, suggesting it was being used as extra vacation time. 

The document notes that the union had reached the agreement while still viewing Bill 17 as unconstitutional. 

The bill, passed in December last year, amended a law deeming the nursing home workers as an essential service. The designation limits the ability of the union members to strike. 

The changes were prompted by a series of court rulings last year that found the original version of the law unconstitutional and gave the province until January 2020 to implement changes.

The union in December said it was considering a court challenge of the new version of the law. So far nothing has been filed in court.

About the Author

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.

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