New Brunswick

'I'm not lying': Minister insists province upped wage proposal to nursing home union

Talks between the union representing 4,100 nursing home workers in New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes have stopped, and it isn't clear when they will resume.

Nursing home contract talks on hold ahead of court hearing

Sharon Teare, president of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions, said is 'frustrated' with the state of negotiations. (Radio-Canada)

Talks between the union representing 4,100 nursing home workers in New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes have stopped and it isn't clear when they will resume.

The end of talks come after the association presented another proposal Monday that was considered during three days of negotiations this week.

Sharon Teare, the president of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions, said at a news conference the proposal wasn't acceptable. 

She laughed when asked about a statement issued earlier in the day by Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard that called it an "enhanced offer. "

"Lies," Teare said. "It was nowhere near what would've settled the issue that's here today."

Shephard held a news conference Thursday afternoon where she refused to say what was different about the offer. 

"I am not lying to you," she said. "An enhanced offer was put on the table."

Dorothy Shephard, the minister of Social Development, says an 'enhanced offer' was given to the union this week but refused to say what was different. (Michel Corriveau/Radio-Canada)

The union said the offer included increases of half a per cent every six months over three years. 

Union members had previously rejected a tentative agreement last year. The offer included a one per cent annual wage increase over four years. 

Shephard said she wants an agreement that's fair to workers and to taxpayers. A spokesperson for her department said a one per cent increase in wages would cost the province an additional $1.43 million per year. 

Jodi Hall, executive director of the association, said she couldn't get into the details of the proposal.

Jodi Hall, executive director of the New Brunswick Nursing Home Association, says the organization presented an 'enhanced' offer to the union on Monday. (CBC)

"We still have to find a way to find common ground and that we're willing to be at the bargaining table to achieve that," Hall said when asked about Teare's comment.

The association is funded by the provincial government. The province had accepted the union's request to join the contract talks on Monday. 

A mediator directed that the parties in the negotiations "temporarily break," the province's statement said. No further talks are scheduled. 

"This is not an end to negotiations and we remain optimistic that the discussions this week and the enhanced offer from the employer will build towards an agreement that is fair to all parties," Shephard said in the statement Thursday.

Court hearing Friday

The union and provincial government will seek rulings from a judge Friday that could affect whether the workers represented by the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions can strike. 

The union wants a 10-day stay of a labour board decision lifted.

The province is seeking a continuation of the stay until a judicial review is carried out of the December 2018 labour board decision.

That decision looked at the province's 2009 law deeming nursing home workers an essential service, which would keep them on the job in the event of a strike. The ruling called the law unconstitutional. 

About the Author

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.

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