New Brunswick Prime Minister Blaine Higgs shows no signs of backing down on his government’s latest contract offer to striking public sector workers.
The strike by thousands of public servants, including school bus drivers, educational support personnel and workers in transportation, correctional facilities and the community college system, entered Day 11 on Monday.
The two sides are close on the issue of wages, with the government offering 10 percent for five years and an annual increase of 25 cents an hour, but the province is also proposing controversial pension changes for two locals.
NB health workers rejected after return to work order: union
The prime minister says the pension plans of the two locals are underfunded and unsustainable, adding that if the union doesn’t back down on the pension issue, then “we probably have a long way to go here.”
The union previously rejected the proposed pension changes, and representatives from CUPE New Brunswick were not immediately available for comment Monday.
On Friday, the government issued an emergency order forcing striking healthcare workers to return to work, threatening fines of up to $ 20,400 a day for employees who refuse to comply.
CUPE filed an emergency complaint about the order with the province’s Labor and Employment Board, but the complaint was dismissed by the board in a ruling filed Sunday. In its complaint, the CUPE had alleged that the province was trying to “compel, through intimidation and threats,” employees to “refrain from exercising their right to strike.”
CUPE seeks clarity around the mandatory order
The board said it was not satisfied “on the basis of the evidence presented” that there was a violation of the Public Service Labor Relations Act.
The government has also excluded members of two locals who represent school personnel, and as a result, schools across the province have moved into remote learning.
Higgs says the union must agree to allow the two premises in question to enter a process to determine a new model for their pensions. Taxpayers, he said, cannot continue to contribute to a model “that has proven to have exceeded its obligations.”
“People now live longer and are retired longer than the pension formula was designed. We have people retired for longer than they have worked in many cases ”.
This Canadian Press report was first published on November 8, 2021.
– with a file from Rebecca Lau
© 2021 The Canadian Press