New Brunswick

Nursing home workers demonstrate, threaten strike

Unionized nursing home workers protested in Fredericton on Thursday, threatening to strike after contract negotiations broke down about a month ago.

Union is accusing management of not treating temporary workers fairly

Hundreds of nursing home workers and others demonstrated in solidarity with the union trying to negotiate a contract. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

Unionized nursing home workers protested outside management offices in Fredericton on Thursday, threatening to strike after contract negotiations broke down about a month ago.

Employees and demonstrators chanted outside the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes, which represents more than 40 nursing homes at the bargaining table.

Members of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions spoke through a bullhorn about how the association has asked for a concession, and the union is not prepared to give in.

Workers are particularly concerned about a two-tiered employment system, where temporary workers aren't in the union and get no guaranteed hours. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

Wayne Brown said he could not discuss the concession the union was asked to make.

But he said workers are particularly concerned about a two-tiered employment system, in which temporary workers don't get a spot in the union and no guaranteed hours or employment.

"They're looking for a new classification of employee with no benefits," Brown said.

Jodi Hall, executive director of the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes, said "communications challenges" are complicating the bargaining process.

A strike, however, is not how employers want to see the negotiations to end, she said.

"I guess through a standard labour process, that's always a journey that you find yourself on, when you enter negotiations, as a potential end point," Hall said. "It's certainly not what we're striving to achieve."

Members of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions spoke through a bullhorn about how the association has asked for a concession that workers are not prepared to make. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

While it's not on the bargaining table, demonstrators were also chanting for "three point five," or to be able to spend 3½ hours with a resident per 24 hours, instead of the current 3.1 hours.

Brenda Roy, a nursing home worker from Bathurst, said the work is difficult, and employees don't have enough hours to spend with residents.

"Our patient doesn't have what they deserve, we don't have no contract, so we would like to have 3.5 hours every resident," she said. "I think that they deserve that."

Brown said the monetary package has been agreed upon, but the union is not willing to "make any concessions."

"If they want us to take off our boxing gloves we will," he said. "It could get nasty."

The previous collective agreement expired in October 2016, and the union has been negotiating for 18 months.

The two sides will be having a conciliation session the last week of May.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hadeel Ibrahim is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick based in Saint John. She's been previously awarded for a series on refugee mental health and for her work at a student newspaper, where she served as Editor-in-Chief. She reports in English and Arabic. Email her at hadeel.ibrahim@cbc.ca

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