New Brunswick

CUPE workers at N.B. nursing homes ordered not to strike

A strike at New Brunswick nursing homes has been averted for now. Social Sevelopment Minister Dorothy Shephard announced Saturday that 45 of the 46 nursing homes in the province be prohibited by law from striking.

The Court of Queen's Bench granted a 10-day stay order preventing labour action

Hundreds demonstrate in solidarity with the union representing nursing home workers in New Brunswick. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

A strike at New Brunswick nursing homes has been averted for now.

Workers will not be going on strike Sunday after the Court of Queen's Bench granted a 10-day stay order.

Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard announced Saturday that 45 of the 46 nursing homes in New Brunswick will be prohibited by law from striking.

York Care Centre nursing home in Fredericton is allowed to strike because it is a test case with separate legislation from the others.

"While I support the collective bargaining process and workers' ability to strike, the health and safety of nursing home residents is my primary concern," Shephard said in a press release.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees announced early Saturday that nursing home employees across the province would be walking off the job Sunday morning. 

Union unsure of next move

The decision to strike came after thousands of workers voted in favour of a strike for higher pay and better conditions on Thursday. More than 90 per cent of approximately 4,100 workers voted in favour of a strike, according to results released Friday by the union

Contract negotiations have been ongoing since the workers' last contract expired in October 2016, but have been unsuccessful.

There are about 4,500 residents staying in nursing homes and 46 non-profit nursing homes across New Brunswick.

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says her goal is to have a process in place in time for consultations to start "early in the New Year."  (CBC )

The province passed a law in 2009 to ensure some nursing home staff would remain on the job in the event of a strike. But a December 2018 labour board decision said that law violates collective bargaining rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"I fully believe that the jobs in the nursing home that are comparable and the same to hospital workers need to be designated essential services, just as they are in the hospital," Shephard said.

"With the health and safety and security of our nursing home residents at risk, this is a move that I felt I had to take. CUPE can look after their membership. My job is to look after the residents in the nursing home."

The minister hopes CUPE and the nursing home association will return to the negotiating table. She said the legal team will be putting together more briefings for the court during the next ten days and asking the court for an extension.

She said it's possible the workers could strike after the ten days.

The New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes said they were pleased that the stay order was granted.

"This will ensure that our residents will continue to receive the care and services they need to go about their daily lives," said the NBANH in a press release.

A representative from CUPE said they were blindsided by the decision, and have yet to figure out their next move.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Morin

Reporter

Sarah Morin is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick. She grew up in Thunder Bay and London, Ont. and moved to Fredericton for university. You can follow her on Twitter @sarrymorin or send a story tip to sarah.morin@cbc.ca.

With files from Jordan Gill and Melissa Friedman

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