New Brunswick

Nursing home workers' union, province reach 'impasse' in contract dispute talks

Talks have broken down again between the union representing New Brunswick nursing home workers and the provincial government, according to the minister of social development.

There is no timetable for negotiations to resume

The provincial government said Tuesday talks with the union representing thousands of nursing home workers have reached an impasse. (CBC)

Talks have broken down again between the union representing New Brunswick nursing home workers and the provincial government, according to the minister of social development.

Dorothy Shephard said in a statement issued Tuesday night the sides reached "an impasse" after several days of negotiations. 

"Discussions throughout the talks have been respectful and collegial, but unfortunately this afternoon, we reached an impasse," Shephard said. "Although we are open to returning to the table to talk, no further negotiations are scheduled at this time."

Shephard said they're optimistic that a negotiated agreement "will eventually be reached that is fair to nursing home employees and to residents."

But in a revised statement issued minutes later, the optimism was followed by a note of fiscal restraint.

Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard said Tuesday there is no date for talks to resume. (CBC)

"However, we must also take into account that as a government we are restricted by our province's fiscal reality and must also be fair to New Brunswick taxpayers," read the revised statement.

The minister did not mention binding arbitration.

CUPE officials said prior to the renewed talks that if a contract couldn't be reached, they wanted binding arbitration. However, the parties are at odds on that front as well. The Blaine Higgs government offered binding arbitration with conditions, but the union rejected it, calling for unrestricted proceedings.

Union representatives were not immediately available for comment Tuesday night.

About 4,000 nursing home workers, including licensed practical nurses, resident attendants and support service workers, have been negotiating a contract since 2016, seeking higher wages.

In early March, workers voted 90 per cent in favour of a strike, but on April 26, the Court of Appeal stayed a labour board decision that would have allowed the workers to walk off the job.

The three-justice panel ruled there will be no strike until a judicial review of the labour board decision is completed or until further orders from the Court of Queen's Bench. A judicial review is set to begin on May 24 in Moncton.

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