Premier Higgs Examines Options After CUPE Strike Impacts New Brunswick Healthcare – New Brunswick | The Canadian News

The New Brunswick prime minister said he would use the next 24 hours to explore his options to end a strike by thousands of unionized provincial workers after the labor action affected health care services on Saturday.

Blaine Higgs said that a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Fredericton was canceled and that COVID-19 detectors were not available in some hospitals and other facilities.

It is the latest disruption caused by the strike, which began when approximately 22,000 members of the New Brunswick branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees left work on Thursday.

“The health and safety of the people of New Brunswick is of primary concern to our government,” Higg said at a news conference Saturday afternoon. “The pandemic has put additional pressure on the health system in our province. Now the actions taken by CUPE are worsening that tension and… impacting the residents of our province ”.

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In a social media post on Saturday, Horizon Health Network said it was evaluating health care services as a result of the strike and would notify the public of any changes.

“We are committed to providing essential healthcare services to our patients and clients during the strike and our emergency departments will remain open,” he wrote.

Higgs said he could use the province’s Emergency Measures Law to force employees to return to work, but he planned to take the next 24 hours to weigh his options.

“I do not take it lightly to introduce legislation on return to work,” he said. “It’s only in a situation where we feel like it’s the only option available to us.”

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The prime minister said he was surprised that the union considered labor actions in the health system.

While many employees in the union are considered essential and must report to work, Higgs said CUPE refused to amend the essential services agreement to include people testing for COVID-19.

“It’s almost as if the plan was made some time ago that this would be a time when maximum pressure could be put on the government by putting people’s health at risk,” Higgs said.

Salaries are the main issue

Wages are the main issue at stake for striking workers.

Before contract talks broke down Tuesday night, the union was seeking a 12 percent raise over four years, with no strings attached. The government confirmed Thursday that it was offering a salary increase of 8.5 percent over a five-year period.

Higgs described the government’s offer, which includes pension improvements, as fair. He said the main stumbling block is the national union CUPE and its pressure on local representatives.

But CUPE New Brunswick president Steve Drost accused the prime minister of continually trying to blame the union, noting that provincial members voted 94 percent in favor of a strike.

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He said most union members have not had an adequate pay raise in 15 years and remain among the lowest paid workers in the country.

In an interview on Saturday, Drost said it would be “unfortunate” if the government ordered the strikers to go back to work.

“Any kind of legislation like that would certainly be an overreach and misuse of power,” he said. “It is totally unnecessary.”

This Canadian Press report was first published on October 30, 2021.

Click to Play Video: 'Schools Close As Thousands of New Brunswick Public Sector Workers Go on Strike'

Schools Close When Thousands of New Brunswick Public Sector Workers Go on Strike

Schools Close When Thousands of New Brunswick Public Sector Workers Go on Strike

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