FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following statement was issued today by Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard in relation to negotiations with CUPE nursing home workers:

The New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes, as the employer, along with the provincial government were at the negotiating table this week in hopes of securing a negotiated settlement that is fair for all parties, including New Brunswick taxpayers.

Earlier today, I issued an update for New Brunswickers on the status of those negotiations. This update stated clearly that an enhanced offer had been provided to the union and that a mediator has recommended a temporary break in negotiations.

Unfortunately, CUPE has decided to discuss elements of the association’s offer in the media and, as a result, it is necessary to clarify the facts.

CUPE has downplayed its own wage demands in the media, but this is the fact: they have demanded wage increases of 20 per cent over four years plus additional compensation adjustments. This is not reasonable.

The provincial government is open to funding wage increases to nursing home workers, but CUPE’s demands are out of line with what 24 public service bargaining groups, including hospital workers who do the same jobs, have accepted.

Added up, these wage increases would cost New Brunswick taxpayers $28 million more each year. These wage demands represent $7,800 more per nursing home bed each year. To be clear, this would not be an investment in the system to increase care hours or improve conditions.

It is unfortunate that things have reached this point. In May 2018, a tentative agreement had been reached with this group at the bargaining table which would have resulted in the salaries of these workers being equal to their counterparts who do the same jobs in the hospital system. This offer was put forth by the CUPE leadership to the membership for a vote and was ultimately rejected.

While I support the collective bargaining process and workers’ ability to strike, the health and safety of nursing home residents continues to be my primary concern. I sincerely hope, in the interest of nursing home residents and New Brunswick taxpayers, an agreement can be reached, but it will not be reached by negotiating in the media.