New Brunswick

Date set for province's appeal of ruling in favour of nursing home unions

A date has been set for New Brunswick's Court of Appeal to hear a case that could affect whether thousands of nursing home workers in the province can strike. 

Late October court date set after lower court ruling in July sided with union

CUPE nursing home workers voted to strike in March, but a series of court proceedings has prevented one from taking place. Another hearing is now scheduled for Oct. 29. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

A date has been set for New Brunswick's Court of Appeal to hear a case that could affect whether thousands of nursing home workers in the province can strike. 

The case will be heard Oct. 29 in Fredericton by Justices Ernest Drapeau, Kathleen Quigg and Bradley Green, according to the court's website.

The province is appealing a lower court decision from July in favour of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents more than 4,100 workers at 46 non-profit care homes.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice DeWare ruled the province's Essential Services in Nursing Homes Act was unconstitutional, upholding a December 2018 labour board decision.

The province appealed, arguing DeWare made multiple errors in law.

CUPE represents the workers, who include licensed practical nurses, resident attendants, support service workers such as dietary and laundry workers, and some clerical workers. 

About 90 per cent of workers voted in March to strike, but the province went to court to prevent a strike, arguing it would harm vulnerable nursing home residents. A series of court hearings and rulings has continued since then and no strike has occurred. 

Sides yet to reach new contract

DeWare's ruling gave the province until January 2020 to amend the law to make it comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

"The Department of Social Development remains committed to ensuring the safety and security of residents of the province's nursing homes," Abigail McCarthy, a spokesperson for the Department of Social Development, said in a statement after the province sought leave to appeal.

The last collective agreement expired in 2016 and the sides have not reached an agreement during the ongoing court proceedings.

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