New Brunswick

Nursing home workers make public plea for 'unrestricted' binding arbitration

The union representing thousands of nursing home workers embroiled in the ongoing labour dispute has taken its message directly to the New Brunswick public.

Union takes out two-page ad in provincial newspaper outlining demands

CUPE has renewed its call for binding arbitration to resolve the ongoing labour dispute. (CBC)

The union representing thousands of nursing home workers embroiled in the ongoing labour dispute has taken its message directly to the New Brunswick public.

The New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions, represented by CUPE, took out a two-page ad in the provincial Telegraph-Journal newspaper Tuesday that outlined its demands and featured an open letter to the premier.

In the letter, council president Sharon Teare renews the call for "unrestricted" binding arbitration after the provincial government's offer of binding arbitration with conditions was rejected Friday.

Premier Blaine Higgs proposed that wages of similar jobs in New Brunswick's public and private sectors be the factors considered during arbitration.

"Premier Higgs, your insistence on 'conditional' arbitration is a deceitful way to say you refuse to offer more than a 10.5 (cent) per hour increase," Teare said in the letter.

The union representing thousands of New Brunswick nursing home workers took out a two-page ad in the provincial newspaper Tuesday to make its case to the public. (CBC)

Teare said unconditional binding arbitration can find a "fair balance between residents' needs, the Province's interests and workers' rights."

The union also invited Higgs to head to the bargaining table.

Heated exchange

Meanwhile, the premier found himself facing a hostile crowd Monday when a group of protesters confronted him in Quispamsis outside the Progressive Conservatives' annual general meeting.

One exchange in particular, where he suggested a nurse head out west if she wants better wages, didn't go over well.

Premier Blaine Higgs, left, was involved in a heated exchange with protesters Monday night in Quispamsis. (CBC)

"I have a sister that works for an LPN in Alberta and she makes $10 more than I do an hour. You tell me...," a woman could be seen telling Higgs on  video.

"Well, that may be true…" Higgs said.

"It is true," the woman interjected.

The premier responded: "And if you want that kind of wage, then Alberta's where to get it."

The crowd erupted into boos and jeers.

Higgs went on to say you can't compare this province to Alberta and that he doesn't think wages are going to help fill the hundreds of vacant jobs in New Brunswick nursing homes.

The union wants a 20 per cent wage increase over four years, saying that's about a dollar an hour raise for a resident attendant.

The three opposition parties, who combined have a majority in the house, failed to pass a motion late Thursday calling for binding arbitration between the government and the union.

The parties, who disagreed over wording, could revive the motion when the legislature returns in May.

With files from Gabrielle Fahmy

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