FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government has offered wage increases of 15 per cent over five years, which includes a wage adjustment, to seven of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) locals representing nearly 20,000 employees in the civil service, schools, and the health-care system. These increases would be retroactive to the end of each contract, which means, on average, this would amount to $7,000 in retroactive pay.

As part of this offer, the government would work with CUPE 1253 and 2745, the two school-based groups, to review the state of their pensions through an independent process and work on a path forward to ensure all employees have access to a pension that is sustainable.

The offer also includes increasing the salary for casuals to 100 per cent of the salary paid to permanent staff, representing $8 million more in wages for casual workers.

“I urge CUPE leadership to take this offer to their hard-working membership for a vote,” said Premier Blaine Higgs. “Our employees deserve the opportunity to see, understand and vote on this offer.”

To protect the health and safety of patients and the integrity of the health-care system, the government has implemented a mandatory order. All workers in CUPE 1252, who provide services required for the health and safety of patients, and workers in CUPE 1190 and CUPE 1251, who work in the health services supply chain and laundry and linen services, will be required to return to work at their next scheduled shift beginning at 11:59 p.m. tonight.

This is in response to many health-care impacts across the province:

  • More than 11,800 health appointments, procedures and surgeries have been cancelled since Nov. 1. Some of these are emergency and critical surgeries, including those for oncology and heart patients.
  • There are delays in processing laboratory test results.
  • COVID-19 assessment centres have been affected by closures or experiencing a significant reduction in capacity. Other patient referrals for testing are on hold.
  • Cleaning services in hospitals are delayed, resulting in longer-than-normal times to prepare rooms for new patients and sanitary levels below COVID-19 protocols.
  • Food services are reduced in all hospitals, jeopardizing the nutritional requirements for patients.
  • Laundry services in the Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton areas are below designation levels and output production results, affecting the timely cleaning of bedding, uniforms, face cloths, towels, surgical linens, personal protective equipment and more.

“The regional health authorities are reporting they are struggling to fill designated positions and are experiencing absences in those positions,” said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. “The health-care system was already strained due to the pandemic, and the situation has gotten worse over the past week. Our hospitals cannot withstand another weekend at the red-alert level. Steps must be taken to ensure that our hospitals are able to operate safely so that we can keep the people of this province healthy and safe.”

Under the mandatory order, any worker in CUPE Locals 1252, 1190 or 1251 who fails to report to work when required risks being fined. The minimum fine is $480 and the maximum fine is $20,400 per day. Any person who advises a worker not to comply will also be committing an offence and will be subject to a fine ranging from $480 to $20,400. In addition, CUPE will be fined a minimum of $100,000 for each day that a worker does not comply with the mandatory order.

If employees do not report to work, the regional health authorities can assign work to non-bargaining employees or contract it out to ensure the health and safety of patients and a continuity of service in the health-care sector.

“Implementing a mandatory order and ordering health-care workers back to work is not a step we took lightly,” said Justice and Public Safety Minister Hugh J. Flemming. “However, it is necessary to bring stability to the health-care system, to prevent loss of life and avoid serious medical deterioration.”

The government’s current offer to the union is available online.