New Brunswick government cancels throne speech to resume session amid strike – New Brunswick | The Canadian News

The New Brunswick government canceled Tuesday’s planned throne speech and will resume the spring session of the legislature instead.

The president’s office sent a notice to all members of the legislature this morning to notify them of the change.

Government officials did not immediately comment, but the move comes amid a public service strike involving 22,000 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and threats of possible return-to-work legislation.

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Hours earlier, the official opposition leader said Prime Minister Blaine Higgs should be locked in a negotiating room with striking public sector workers.

Liberal leader Roger Melanson told reporters that the government appears determined to punish employees, rather than trying to reach an agreement with them on adequate wages and benefits.

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All schools in the province switched to online learning on Monday after the labor dispute forced classes to be canceled on Friday.

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Those who left work Friday included school bus drivers, janitors, mechanics, some health workers in rehabilitation and therapy, educational support staff and workers in transportation, correctional facilities and the community college system.

“We are in an urgent situation,” Melanson said. “This is not how you treat your own employees. (The province) is not trying to solve the problems. “

Before contract talks broke down Tuesday night, the union was seeking a 12 percent raise for four years, while the province was offering an 8.5 percent pay increase for five years.

CUPE members are shown picketing Monday.

Travis Fortnum / Global News

Melanson said the two sides are not very far apart and should have negotiated over the weekend.

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“(The government) should work with them, having good working conditions and adequate benefits and wages so they can work to their full potential,” Melanson said. “I am concerned about what the prime minister will do.”

Higgs has said it was considering using the Emergency Measures Act to order strikers to return to work or introducing return-to-work legislation after the fall session of the legislature begins. Melanson said that if the prime minister goes down that path, there needs to be a debate in the legislature. However, he said his preference would be a negotiated settlement.

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On Sunday, Education Minister Dominic Cardy said the government decided to move classes online as a way to offer stability to students and families. The union called the government’s decision heavy-handed.

Higgs said over the weekend that the public sector workers’ strike had begun to affect hospitals in Moncton, Saint John and Campbellton, cities located in regions of the province under tighter COVID-19 restrictions.

The strike forced the cancellation of a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Fredericton, as well as some COVID-19 tests in hospitals.

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