New Brunswick

Nursing home workers, province head to court Friday

The provincial government and a union representing thousands of New Brunswick nursing home workers are seeking rulings from a judge that could affect whether the workers can strike.

Judge's ruling could decide whether thousands of workers can go on strike

Protests and contract talks continued for a third day Wednesday while the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions and the province prepared to have their applications heard in court Friday. (CBC)

A dispute between New Brunswick nursing homes and thousands of workers heads to court Friday.

Separate applications by the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions and the provincial government are set to be heard by a Court of Queen's Bench judge in Fredericton. The outcome could affect whether 4,100 workers at 46 nursing homes could walk off the job during a strike.

The province is seeking an order for a long-term stay of a 2018 labour board ruling. The province was granted an interim stay Saturday, a move the union decried. The union's application calls for the judge to rescind that interim stay.

Dave MacLean, a spokesman for the Department of Social Development, declined to comment ahead of the court hearing. 

The New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions doesn't believe the short-term stay was proper, spokesman Patrick Roy said 

"The process was flawed, there was no need for it," Roy said. 

Meanwhile, contract talks between the union, province and New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes continued for a third day on Wednesday. The sides have agreed to a media blackout on details of the discussions. 

The union also held protests in St. Stephen, Edmundston, Saint John and Rogersville.

Hundreds of nursing home workers and supporters have held protests this week in various locations around the province, including Moncton on Tuesday. (CBC)

The legal wrangling comes after the union rejected a tentative agreement last year. Last week, union members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike mandate. Strike notice was given early Saturday, but the province was then granted the interim 10-day stay.

The workers include licensed practical nurses, resident attendants and support service workers.

Board called law unconstitutional

The December 2018 labour board ruling looked at whether the province's Essential Services in Nursing Homes Act is constitutional. The law would keep most workers on the job in the event of a strike. The board decision says the law violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

Dorothy Shephard, the minister of social development, announced the government would seek a judicial review of the labour board decision. A stay effectively puts the decision's effect on hold until the judicial review is complete. 

Justice David Smith granted a request for an interim 10-day stay on March 9. Smith also ordered the court hear the province's long-term stay request within 10 days. That is one of the applications that will be considered Friday. 

About the Author

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.

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